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Tasting Notes

All rights reserved
©2014 F. Paul Pacult
The following reviews originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of the Spirit Journal

Reviews of new whiskeys from Japan and the USA

WHISKY – JAPAN

Editor’s note: Japan’s five whisky distilleries, Yamazaki, Miyagikyo, Hakushu, Chichibu, and Yoichi, have come of age and are producing blended and single malt whiskies that stand with the world’s best from the United States, Scotland, Ireland, and Canada. Not only is Japan gaining in the whisky sweepstakes as a nation, but Suntory, which owns Yamazaki, purchased Beam Global, the parent company of iconic Jim Beam Bourbon, this past January. Thus, Japan’s distilled spirits influence is growing on an international basis in many ways.

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky (Japan); 45% abv, $70.
Maize/18-carat gold color; inconsequential sediment seen – not a problem. First sniffs detect spice cake, leafy/twiggy/forest vegetation scents; later whiffs pick up traces of toasted grains, kernel/bean, parchment; a delicate aromatic profile that’s dry, grainy. Entry is sweeter than expected, resiny/oaky, honeyed; midpalate features more of the resiny oak influence, vanilla wafer, deep roasted grains. Ends dry to off-dry, tight, viscous.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt 12 Year Old Whisky (Japan); 45% abv, $120.
Lovely deep amber tone; excellent clarity. I smell medicine cabinet, gauze, lima bean in initial inhalations; later sniffs detect linseed oil, dried herbs (parsley), coriander, cereal, malted milk balls. Entry is pleasingly dry, fruity, malty, oily; midpalate mirrors all the entry virtues and adds herbal flavors that increase the complexity. Ends up intensely malty/resiny, warming.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Nikka Yoichi Single Malt 15 Year Old Whisky (Japan); 45% abv, $130.
Burnt orange/ burnished copper color; unblemished clarity. This aroma is closed off in the first round, but with further air contact it comes alive offering faint scents of brown rice, hemp/textile fiber, kale, black bean sauce. Entry is yummy, highlighted by vibrant flavors of sweet malt, toffee, light honey; midpalate is toasty, with seductive tastes of charred marshmallow, sugar cookie, maple, shortbread. Finishes tart, savory. Came a long way from a lackluster bouquet to four star status. In-mouth phases -entry, midpalate, aftertaste - are exceptional.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 12 Year Old Whisky (Japan); 40% abv, $70.
Jonquil/gold color; superb clarity. I encounter faint traces of ripe apple/pear, new leather, candle wax in the opening whiffs; later inhalations pick up more cereal-driven fragrances, especially malt and oatmeal. Entry is honeyed, like honeynut-flavored breakfast cereal; midpalate is oily, rich in texture, nutty, candied, with tastes of caramel, nougat. Concludes woody/oaky, semisweet. A delicate whisky of nuance and subtle complexity.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Year Old Whisky (Japan); 43% abv, $150.
Bright topaz/amber color; excellent purity. Upfront, I detect warming, multilayered, roasted cereal notes that are off-dry, kernel-like, even a touch salty; later inhalations pick up steamed brown rice, soy bean, butcher’s wax, poppy seed. Entry is fruity, snack cracker-like, buttery/creamy; midpalate features candy bar, vanilla bean, clove flavors. Finishes buttery, toasty, elegant, long in the throat.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Year Old Whisky (Japan); 43% abv, $150.
Bronze color; flawless clarity. I notice that this opening aroma is less concentrated than that of the 17 Year Old, but still has a measure of kernel-like intensity left; later sniffs pick up lemongrass, citrus peel, black pepper. Entry is soft, buttery, gently sweet, lightly spiced; midpalate is really luscious, deep, confectioner shop-like, biscuit batter-like, honeyed. Aftertaste is lovely, complex. This malt came back strong in the entry and midpalate stages.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt 25 Year Old Whisky (Japan); 43% abv, $1,600.
Orange/copper color; superb clarity. First whiffs pick up hazelnut, brown sugar, nougat aromas; later inhalations encounter old leather, cinnamon, brown sugar, honey, toffee. Entry is buttery, viscous, honey sweet, malty; midpalate is luscious, succulent, profoundly grainy/malty, Graham cracker-like. Finishes very long, oily, silky, honeyed/sherried. Fabulous.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highest Recommendation


WHISKEY – USA

Editor’s note: Long time Spirit Journal subscribers know how we view this annual bottling from Heaven Hill Distilleries. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage has been inducted into the Spirit Journal Hall of Fame as an iconic example of consistent American whiskey and distilling excellence. It’s a yearly treat of rare superiority and incredible value.

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2004 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA); 43.3% abv; $27.
Medium amber/straw color; uncharacteristic sediment seen. First inhalations detect generous, animated aromas of caramel corn, cornmeal, peanut butter, pine needle; later sniffs encounter added scents of black pepper, slate/stone, lemongrass. Entry is sap-like, honeyed, viscous, peppery; midpalate highlights more of the corn aspect, with grainy flavors of buttered popcorn, creamed corn, cooking spice. Ends gracefully, integrated, balanced, off-dry, nutty. Once again depicts why bourbon is one of the hottest spirits categories on the planet and one of the most affordable spiritous pleasures. Recommendation: BUY, BUY, BUY!
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Editor’s note: George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Sour Mash Whisky (45% abv), which we consider one of the best values in the entire global whiskey category, was recently rated Four Stars in Volume 23, Issue 1 from March 2013. Here are other George Dickel portfolio whiskies of note.

George Dickel White Corn Whiskey No. 1 Foundation Recipe (USA); 45.5% abv; $22.
Mineral water clarity. Toasty, roasted cereal grains, caramel corn, textile fibers and matchstick aromas explode from the glass in the first whiffs; air contact slowly evolves the toastiness into burnt fiber, burlap and corn silo smells. Entry is burnt, intensely toasted grain, charred corn-on-the-cob off the grill, sweet like BBQ sauce, tomato paste; midpalate mirrors entry, adding Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, molasses. I’m not a white dog fan, but this quirky dog works better than many of them.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


George Dickel No. 8 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey (USA); 40% abv; $19.
Bright amber color; excellent purity. Gentle smells of creamed corn, spice cake, ginger in initial inhalations; later on, I get easy scents of canned pineapple, hazelnut. Entry is delicate, spicy/peppery, semisweet, marshmallow-like; midpalate follows through on all entry tastes, leading to nicely spicy, confectioner’s shop aftertaste. The teenage No. 12.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey (USA); 43% abv; $39.
Brilliant copper color; unblemished clarity. First sniffs encounter round, supple, corny notes that are more breakfast cereal-like than corn-on-the-cob- or canned corn-like; later whiffs pick up resiny/oaky notes that add complexity and brown butter fragrance. Entry is toffee-like, with foundational notes of brown sugar, clove; midpalate is resiny/woody, with a twinge of sharpness in the finish.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Editor’s note: We rated Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey five stars last year in Volume 23, Issue 2.

Hillrock Estate Distillery Single Malt Whiskey (USA); 48.2% abv; $115.
Deep amber/topaz color; flawless purity. I smell deep and completely dry concentrations of grain kernel, hemp/rope, toasted malt in opening whiffs; later on, I detect old leather, men’s club/library, burlap aromas. Entry is dusty dry, intensely grainy to the point of being fruity; midpalate is caramel-like, toasty, slightly smoky, rich, viscous, honeyed – the best part of the experience. Finishes a bit fat, creamy, honey-like.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Hillrock Estate Distillery Double Cask Rye Whiskey (USA); 45% abv; $90.
Bright new copper/henna color; sediment free clarity. There’s all sorts of spiciness going on in the first inhalations, all of which are baking spices – nutmeg, clove; later sniffs detect butterscotch, cooking oil, freshly ground nutmeg, parchment. Entry is oaky sweet, with vanilla and seedless rye bread tastes; midpalate is bread doughy, delicately sweet but more spicy than sweet, especially in the aftertaste, where the flavor detonates on the tongue.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
/Highly Recommended


Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA); 47.5% abv; $35.
Maize/amber color; ideal clarity. Big, rich, corny notes are abundant in the first sniffs; to my delight, the elevated abv doesn’t get in the way of the bouquet, which is pleasingly roasted, sawdust-like, elegant. Entry is lush, viscous, buttery/creamy, vanilla bean-like; midpalate reflects the entry perfectly, adding sweetened breakfast cereal, honey, snack cracker, English toffee. In the wake of the superb Signature Series bottlings this marque continues Beam’s current hot streak.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highest Recommendation


Jim Beam Red Stag Hardcore Cider Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Natural Apple Cider and Other Flavors (USA); 40% abv; $35.
Pale topaz color; superb clarity. I like the upfront apple cider aroma, which is tart, zesty, peel-like, and not the least bit sweet. Entry is pleasingly tart, acidic, fresh; midpalate works well as the apple freshness merges nicely with the straight bourbon. Bourbon purists, get over it. Flavored whiskeys, like Red Stag, can be good and appealing to a younger crowd.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Jim Beam Maple Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Natural Flavors (USA); 35% abv; $16.
Pale gold color; clean. I get all the maple one could want from a flavored whiskey in the first sniffs; goes butterscotch in later inhalations. Entry is acutely maple-like and within a nanosecond I’m automatically thinking pancakes; midpalate is semisweet, not sweet, and judiciously maple-like, not over-the-top.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Jim Beam Honey Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Natural Flavors (USA); 35% abv; $16.
14-carat gold color; sediment free. This nose is a little too closed off at first, giving up only a slight fruitiness; later inhalations discover nothing. Entry is honey sweet, succulent, fruity/grainy; midpalate highlights the engaging honey flavoring, which is more semisweet than flat-out sweet. In-mouth phases redeem the lackluster bouquet.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Journeyman Silver Cross Whiskey (USA); 45% abv; $50.
Pristine topaz appearance. Smells upfront of canvas, beeswax, lanolin, flax; later on, aroma offers faint aspects of toasted cereals, nutmeg, citrus. Entry is slightly salty/saline, acutely woody/oily, cheese-like; midpalate features toasted grains, English toffee, salted butter. Finishes long, creamy, nougat-like.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Journeyman Ravenswood Rye Whiskey (USA); 45% abv; $50.
Marigold/maize color; excellent purity. Out of the aromatic gate, I smell spices, sawdust, palm oil; later sniffs detect praline, marzipan, almond paste. Entry is biscuity, supple, toasted, grainy, and delightfully sweet; midpalate reinforces all the entry impressions, adding sherry, maple sugar, honey. Concludes long, velvety, luscious. A beautifully rendered rye of substance and grace.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Journeyman New Zealand Single Malt Whiskey (USA); 40% abv; $65.
Disturbingly hazy/turbid copper appearance. Opening fragrance is flat and indistinctive, showing little aromatic presence; ditto, the second inhalation passes; DOA. Entry keenly malty, but a bit sharp and resiny; midpalate is toasty, malty, caramel-like, and sweet, but by this stage the damage has been done. Finish is flabby, awkwardly woody.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Not Recommended


Koval White Rye Whiskey/Certified Organic (USA); 40% abv; $35.
Mineral water clear and clean. Opening nose is snappy, grainy, and almost like baked fruit as there is a nuance of charred sweetness underneath the grain intensity; bouquet turns semisweet with aeration and roasted; me like. Entry is fruity, fulfilling the nose impressions, and gently sweet; midpalate highlights the grainy sweetness more than the fruit aspect. Longer than expected finish.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Koval Rye Single Barrel Whiskey (USA); 40% abv; $49.
Pretty burnt orange color; flawless clarity. I get big hits of new saddle leather, glass/sand, baked cherry in first whiffs; later on, glass/sand goes to parchment, but cherry/berry fruit lingers. Entry is resiny, deeply woody/stemmy, bark-like, but delicately sweet; midpalate brings the disparate flavor elements together in a stylish manner that’s dry, waxy, toasted. A distinctive, high quality rye.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Koval Oat Single Barrel Whiskey (USA); 40% abv; $49.
Straw yellow/amber color; excellent purity. Wow, I encounter toasted breakfast cereal notes that remind me of honey Cheerios in the opening nosing; the delicate sweetness remains a prominent feature in the second nosing phase. Entry mirrors the toasted grain bouquet; midpalate is silky smooth, creamy in texture, and biscuity and yeasty like cookie dough. Long finish that’s a touch saline.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Koval Bourbon Single Barrel Whiskey (USA); 47% abv; $52.
Pale 14-carat gold color; average purity. Okay, so I’m getting truckloads of Christmas fruitcake, raisins, candied almond, candied pineapple in the initial sniffs; later whiffs detect harmonious hints of nutmeg, clove, vanilla that add nicely to the cake-nut-fruit fragrance. Entry is all-bakery-all-the-time semisweet and toffee-like, with subtle hints of brown butter and praline; midpalate reflects entry findings. Aftertaste is the big winner, though there’s a palpable fieriness that is acceptable.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highly Recommended


Rock Town Arkansas Rye Whiskey (USA);46% abv; $40.
Pretty copper/auburn color; excellent clarity. I get earthy/woodsy/herbal aromas of forest floor, moss/lichen, dried flowers in the first whiffs; later on, candle wax, cereal grains, tropical fruits (banana, guava) emerge. Entry is keenly spicy (cinnamon, ginger), sap- and maple-like, sweet-and-sour; midpalate returns to the herbal/vegetal/mushroom aspect identified in the opening sniffs. Finishes savory, dry, peppery, mossy.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Recommended


Spring 44 Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA); 45% abv, $40.
Pretty topaz color; excellent clarity. I like the toasty/roasted cereal aspect of the opening aroma, which is likewise moderately fruity/ripe, spicy/peppery, waxy, sawdust-like; later whiffs detect Casaba melon, wood plank, nutshell aromas. Entry is savory, baking spice/cake frosting sweet (vanilla extract), viscous, nutty; midpalate is intensely honeyed, maple-like, with touches of brown butter, snack cracker, shortbread. Finishes beautifully, elegantly, composed, full-bodied. Gloriously luscious.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Highest Recommendation


Spring 44 Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey (USA); 50% abv, $60.
Bright amber/gamboge color; unacceptably frightful amount of large gray sediment seen – a cosmetic no-no. I pick up traces of cement/wet sidewalk, butcher’s wax, dry breakfast cereal in the opening inhalations; later whiffs see spicy and biscuity aromas emerge, but in general, there’s a hollowness to this bouquet. Entry is lush, concentrated, caramel-like, bittersweet; midpalate features all the entry aspects plus a honeynut cereal element that raises this whiskey’s stock price, but not enough for a third star and a recommendation. Beleaguered by filtration and wood management flaws.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Not Recommended


Woodford Reserve 2013 Master’s Collection Classic Malt Whiskey (USA); 45.2% abv; $100.
Oyster shell/dusty yellow color; minor floating debris. Assertive fibrous, flaxen/textile, kernel-like opening aroma that highlights wax paper, grass seedhead; later sniffs detect desert dry scents that do not deviate from first impressions. Better in mouth than in nose, this oddball whiskey offers a biscuity entry, then features ungainly flax/textile notes that are harsh and unpleasant. A messed up experiment that shouldn’t have been released to the public.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Not Recommended


Woodford Reserve 2013 Master’s Collection Straight Malt Whiskey (USA); 45.2% abv; $100.
Sunset orange/pale amber color; pristine clarity. I detect a subtle nuttiness that is dry yet slightly spiced in the initial whiffs; later on, there are distinctive notes of wheat germ, oak plank and resin, dried legumes. Entry is awkwardly raw, overly wooded, and like drinking paint remover; midpalate is worse than the horrible entry. A disastrous release that tarnishes the Woodford Reserve reputation.
Spirit Journal March 2014:
Not Recommended


© F. Paul Pacult
All rights reserved.

 

 
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