01.26.18 | Smoke on the High Desert | Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey Apple Brandy Cask Finish

American Whiskey

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I am very excited to be sharing with you an American Single Malt that hails from the high deserts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey is distilled by Santa Fe Spirits that opened in 2010 under Colin Keegan, an Englishmen turned South Westerner. Santa Fe Spirits offers a range of distillates from Apple Brandy *hint hint* to Gin to their Atapiño Liquer, which is a distillate made using piñon nuts and ponderosa pine resin and sugar. However, I am the Whisky Accountant, so I am here to talk specifically about the Colkegan!

There are three expressions currently: the standard Colkegan, Cask Strength, and Apply Brandy Cask finish. However, these are anything but standard. The Colkegan line is all made using smoked malt that utilizes mesquite wood for smoking, which creates an insanely good and unique flavor. Their standard expression is a wonderful smoky whiskey that really showcases the mesquite and one that I highly recommend. Being in a high desert their barrels experience vast changes in temperature and humidity that the Distillery takes full advantage of using their climate-controlled warehouse to maximize the barrel’s interaction with the whiskey. I am super honored to be trying the limited release Apply Brandy Cask to share with y’all today, the oldest of the line at 6 years of age!

Your first impression is going to be the styling of the bottle. With its old timey block print and a name like “Colkegan” you may think that you were about to drink a single malt from Scotland itself, a nod to where all single malts stem from. However, the subtle barrel emblem emblazoned with Zia Sun from the state flag of New Mexico reminds you that this is a single malt with a story and a region all its own. The whiskey comes in at 46% abv with a pale gold hue and thin legs in the glass. The nose is so delicious, sweet and decadent – caramel apples intertwine with a medicinal smoke of cherries that just invites you into the glass. On the palate, the Colkegan actually really reminded me of an ex-Bourbon cask Scottish Single Malt. The flavor begins with spiced florals and honey before opening up a very smooth and rounded fruit medley and smoke. The smoke is very tame at this point, like low hanging thin smoke after putting out a fire. The finish was dried fruits – cherries and apple chips and a tame mesquite smoke. The finish was the first taste of actual mesquite with a lingering charcoal palate.

I feel that this Colkegan was one of the closest American Single Malts that I’ve had to a Scottish Single Malt, while still showcasing a flavor all it’s own. A masterful transition from nose to finish showcasing the mesquite and Apple Brandy. Apple on the nose, white oak and brandy cask on the palate, and mesquite on the finish.

This whiskey had me dreaming of being fireside, orange flickering on the adobe walls of the South West on a cool fall night. True beauty in complexity!

To find out more about Santa Fe Spirits be sure to check out their website https://santafespirits.com/ and their Instagram @santafespirits.

Cheers!

 

01.15.18 | Orange Blossoms in Seville | The Macallan Amber

Scotch Whisky

Let’s just get it out of the way, this scotch is non age stated… phew, alright, did we all get our unnecessary anger out of the way??

Well now we can continue with the review of The Macallan Amber. The Amber is from a four bottle line of NAS scotches that The Macallan picked solely on their color to show the change overtime in Sherry Casks. The Amber is the second iteration of the four, the other three being the Gold, the Sienna, and the Ruby. I for one think it’s an interesting exercise of Sherry Casks that takes away any preconceived opinions on the age of the whisky. Simply, here are the various stages a single malt goes through during a lifetime in a sherry cask. Save your anger over NAS scotches for someone else tonight, because I found this one to be simply lovely.

In the glass it is a crystal clear and watery orange hued Amber, which the body is completely what I would expect at 40% abv. On the nose was bright citrus tangerines and floral honey amongst young grains. The palate is very sweet where I found honey suckle apples and cinnamon streusel. A light breakfast in spring accompanied by a warm lemon and honey tea. The finish was a soft oak and bright colored stone fruits that left the palate feeling refreshed, a short finish, but a pleasant one. Overall, a scotch that put up no fight and was the easy on the mouth pour that I enjoy sometimes between the peat and cask strength beasts.

The Macallan Amber was a refreshing spring time single malt that had me dreaming of orange blossoms on a bright Seville day, I was ready to book a ticket to Spain now with the bottle in tow!

The Amber is one that anyone could approach and find pleasurable, while showcasing a young Sherry barrel before the bold deep red fruits develop. A wonderful scotch for those new to it and a great change of pace scotch with no fight for those of us that know!

Sláinte

01.12.18 | The Light Side | High West 14 Year Light Whiskey

American Whiskey

The yang to the yin of whiskey, light vs dark, Luke vs Vader, what am I talking about?? The High West 14 Year Light Whiskey, that’s what!

Now I am not well-versed on what the hell light whiskey is, so I’m going to let the label fill you in on it, per High West, “…light denotes a grain spirit distilled between 80-95% alcohol by volume – it’s “lighter” than a straight whiskey (which is distilled to <80% ABV) but “heavier” than neutral grain spirits (what is called NGS and makes vodka) which must be distilled >95%.” Basically with this you are distilling out the congeners and science things that make your prototypical whiskey flavors, so what are you left with? You’re about to find out!

The nose gave me a total feel of nostalgia back to my childhood when visiting my grandparents house where they always had those huge tubs of ice cream with the red handle, y’all know what I’m talking about! Well on the nose there was vanilla ice cream with a melted caramel topping, sweet, creamy, and very soft. Once on the palate there was an initial rush of ethanol that quickly dissipated into a decadent buttery pound cake and creamh white chocolate. The 14 years of oak shows its face briefly on the finish before ushering in a lot of butterscotch.

It’s unlike any other whiskey on the market in all the right ways. It’s such a soft whiskey that you could hold in your mouth for hours without discomfort, so decadent and buttery with just the right astringency and no burn. A light spring time whiskey that should be drank with pastries on a Sunday morning, cause that’s how I roll on Sundays. Unfortunately only available at the distillery and the park city lounge, don’t pass it up if you ever find yourself at the mothership!

Cheers

01.11.18 | An Islay Campbeltown? | Longrow Red 13 Year Malbec

Scotch Whisky

I can’t help myself, but all that has been on my mind lately are Campbeltown whiskies. I just cant… they’re SO GOOD, so what could be better than a traditional Campbeltown? A freaking peated Campbeltown, and what could better than a peated Campbeltown? A freaking peated Campbeltown finished in FREAKING MALBEC BARRELS. Holy s***. Also, huge shoutout to Josh with @mondovinodenver for always carrying terrific single malts, in particular, this one 👍🏻

The Longrow is a peated release that our favorite Springbank puts out to bless us with a “mainland Islay”. The bottle I was lucky enough to find is their 13 year cask strength that spent the last 15 months of its life in Malbec barrels from good ol’ South Africa. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Malbecs and that they’re basically the only wine I drink due to their big full bodied fruit flavor and little tannins? This particular bottles comes in at a beautiful cask strength of 51.3% abv. Now how did basically my three favorite things taste when brought together??

The whisky is a red hued brewed tea that just coexists perfectly with the bottle label, very appealing to the eye.

The first impression on the nose was an orange creamsicle in a candy shop, lots of sweet red candies in this one. The sweetness fades away to a slowly smoldering camp fire on the beach at sundown – a beautiful saline smoke, earthy and relaxing.

The palate is a symphony. All flavors playing a part and evident, but none overpowering the other, balance. The smoke of seasoned meat cooking over an open fire shows its face alongside a simmering pot of cranberries and cherries with mulling spices. A dry saline breeze blows through the scene bringing with it dry notes of oak.

The finish is once again balanced and reserved. Tart cherry tannins dry the mouth, a nod to the Malbec, a charred oak spice takes you away…

I can’t put this scotch down. There are a lot of big bold profiles that could have easily ran away from one another, but what Springbank has created is a masterful harmony of balanced flavors that makes for an incredible dram. Peat with red wines are a movement I’m very behind.

Sláinte 🥃

01.10.18 | From Taiwan with Love | Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask

World of Whiskies

I am part of a terrific Asian Whisky group that is full of some incredibly knowledgeable people. The same group that really got me up to speed and interested in Amrut, this group also are Kavalan fanatics. Not having it really available in Colorado I just couldn’t understand the excitement. Kavalan is amongst the relatively young distilleries that are making big noise in the whisky world by snatching up renowned awards consistently for their single cask line. Starting in 2006 out of Taiwan, the Solist group consists of bourbon, wine, and sherry cask expressions that are becoming increasingly difficult to find due to their popularity! Kavalan had me at Sherry and Cask Strength, so here are my thoughts.

The color of the Kavalan is insane – an incredibly deep amber, but on the surface a beautiful halo of light forms contrasting against the deep Sherry red. If the sight of the whisky doesn’t convince you of the sherry bomb sitting in your hand then the scent certainly should. On first nose I found a decadent dessert wine full of rich spices of clove and cinnamon, the scent of a cigar being hand rolled rises with shavings of dark chocolate, and taking over on the end is sweet cherries, tons of cherry. On the taste is a slight spice that is going to carry you through the entire taste, the spice is of cinnamon sugar. The sherry bomb is in full effect here. An explosion of chocolate covered cherries, cranberry sauce topped with mascarpone, the spice of Mexican hot chocolate awakens the taste buds, a syrup of sugar cane coats the inners of the mouth and allows the flavors to spread over the entire surface. One the finish is a burst of minty oak that shocks the mouth and then smoothens out into a sweet cherry cola that fizzles away.

I get it now, I want to be a freaking Kavalan fanatic too! The Solist Sherry Cask was without a doubt one of the best whiskies I’ve ever had. For my personal profile it has everything I want, cask strength, sherry, and a complex layering of spices and flavors. A masterfully crafted whisky by a top notch distillery – now to hunt down the other Solist expressions!

Prost! 🥃

01.10.18 | The King of Peat | Bruichladdich Octomore Edition 7.3

Scotch Whisky

First review of 2018 and it is a serious banger that I spent most of my time off exploring… the OCTOMORE (duh duh duh duhhhhh).

I often times feel that I am on a greater divine journey to seek out the outer limits of peaty scotch to taste them all. For me peat is such a fascinating resource due to its significance in the making of scotch!

For today’s tasting we have everyone’s favorite peat nuclear bomb series… the Bruichladdich Octomore, specifically the 7.3 release. For a wee bit of reference your typical Islays have a PPM (parts per million) phenol of 30-50, with some reaching up to 100. This particular Octomore sports a PPM of 169, so yeah this thing is peaty AF, it’s beautiful! The last technical points are that it is a beast at 63% abv, aged 5 years in American Bourbon Barrels and Spanish Wine Casks of Ribera Del Duero, and the barley is all from the coast of Islay itself. I’ve spent the last several days tasting it each day as this has been one of the most interesting scotches I’ve ever had, and has been a dandy to think about and reflect on!

In the glass the Octomore is a charred gold, reminiscent of what is to come. The nose was very similar to a different favorite spirit of mine, Mezcal! A meaty smoldering brick combines with the saline spray of the ocean, while a sweet lemon poppy seed cake provides a muted sweetness to the nose. As you can see this one is already a journey for the senses!

The palate began with an ancient smoke from deep within a smoldering fire. A red piece of seasoned meat cooks on a salt block that awakens the taste buds. A floral spice of oak accompany a fruit laden Bienenstich cake – this association must just be due to the holiday season – of almond, honey, and baked grains.

The finish is heavy of sea salt, that leaves a salivating mouth wanting more of the scotch! Smoldering peat along the coast side slowly dwindles away leaving a deep smoke flavor in the mouth.

The brute of heavy flavors with a delicate undertone of nuanced flavors there for you to find. It’s a beautiful thing.

Sláinte

01.10.18 | New Kids on Tennyson | The Tatarian

Bars

A very exciting day indeed for the Whisky Accountant with the opening of The Tatarian on Tennyson street in the Berkeley neighborhood. Tatarian is the newest addition to Mike Huggins and Lenka Juchelkova’s bar portfolio of the Arvada Tavern and Union Lodge 1. The common theme amongst the three is constant, damn freaking good cocktails. The volume 1 cocktails at The Tatarian all pay homage to the trees you find in nature, so the cocktails incorporate aromatic spices, herbs, and roots from all walks of nature.

Now if you open up within walking distance of the Whisky Accountant you better believe you are going to get some serious love!

For scientific purposes, Mrs. Whisky Accountant and I sampled a few of their libations.

“Black Jack” | Knob Creek Rye, Laphroig 10 year cask strength, chocolate bitters, smoked honey syrup, benedictine, and a flamed orange | as you can imagine this was AMAZING and was the Whisky Accountants first cocktail choice. I mean come on, Scotch + Rye = all that I love in this world!

“Bodhi” | A chai tea infused pisco cocktail that was rich, velvety, and creamy in a glass topped off with a smoldering cinnamon stick. This drink was a full sensory experience of taste, sight, and smell intertwined.

Last but not least, “Árbol Del Tule” | a deliciously smoked Mezcal cocktail with a slight bite at the end of every sip.

However, this isn’t just your typical cocktail bar, because the Berkeley neighborhood isn’t just your well, typical neighborhood. Tatarian is your gathering place for not only AMAZING cocktails, but also good beer, affordable shots, and good times. That is a place that we can get behind!

Cheers and welcome to the neighborhood!

01.10.18 | New Bourbon Alert | Bear Creek Distillery

American Whiskey

We are keeping in Colorado as we head down the street from Laws Whiskey to Bear Creek Distillery. I’m pretty sure with the right amount of skill and a little luck you could roll a barrel straight down to Laws from Bear Creek!

Let’s talk about one of Colorado’s newest Straight Bourbon Whiskies that has emerged from its 3 year slumber to join a growing cast of delicious Colorado bourbons! The technical facts are that this bourbon sports the young 2 Year age statement and brings with it a beautifully standard 45% abv. Sounds like a whole lot of other bourbons out there, right? Well here is where I’ve spent the last couple days reflecting on this whiskey, because it isn’t and I had a bit of a revelation of why these young Colorado spirits make me so excited!

At a young age there are a plethora of base flavors that you can’t hide behind the barrel. As the drinker you are getting to experience the ingredients of the whiskey itself. For many of the emerging craft distillers there is a commitment to using high quality locally sourced ingredients that they are proudly showcasing with their whiskies. There is no bitter, astringent, alcohol taste to these young bourbons. In the case of Bear Creeks’ bourbon I found a beautiful harmony of nature in the glass. The mouth feel was a creamy cereal of fresh grains, honey balm, cinnamon sticks, and bright green florals. The flavors shined the spotlight on the quality of the locally sourced grains that are used. It was beautiful and shows the base on which given more time in the barrel you will have a grizzly bear of flavor in the glass.

Bear Creek isn’t a one trick pony either as they’re rolling out all sorts of delicious and high quality distillates! We actually ended up taking home a bottle of their AMAZING cask strength rum that aged in Laws Four Grain Whiskey barrels! Teamwork makes the dream work people.

If you’re ever in Denver make sure to stop by Bear Creek Distillery for a pour of whiskey and one of their delicious cocktails. Good alcohol makes good cocktails!

Remember to hug a craft distiller today for what they’re bringing to the Industry right now!

Cheers!

01.10.18 | The Fiercest Critic | EH Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon

American Whiskey

I have the most amazing wife in the world, this is true for a million reasons! One of these reasons is that she is so very supportive of my journey with no aim through whisky and cocktails. She is my bar side ride or die until the end! Whether it be trying a new bar, sipping cocktails, or at a whisky tasting you will pretty much always find Leah by my side.

Unexpectedly though, I have also created one of the fiercest and unapologetic whiskey reviewers this side of the Mississippi. She is the bad cop to my good cop when we sit down to sample whiskies! If she likes it then we better have doubles of it, cause she is going to drink it.

Today I bring you a Mrs. Whiskey Accountant approved bourbon, the EH Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon. This Taylor comes from Buffalo Trace’s Mash Bill #1 aka the Low Rye (10% or less). A non age stated bottled in bond that my best guess drinks like a 10 year and has an abv of 50%.

The color is a wonderful burnished gold that you just cherish in a Bourbon. The nose is very approachable and is of decadent caramel chews and browned sugar with an earthy must of oak. On the palate I was met with a quick bite of oak that nipped with the tongue with a pinch of pepper. That bite though opened into a decadent vanilla birthday cake that carries sweetness all the way into the finish. The finish was leather oak with a flash of alcohol that turned to a sweet and warm fresh butterscotch on the stovetop.

I’m a big fan of the EH Taylor line and the Single Barrel is a crown jewel of it. For an everyday drinker this Taylor is an incredibly approachable and easy drinking bourbon that drinks below it’s proof. Whether in a cocktail or neat in a glencairn I ensure you that the the EH Taylor Single Barrel will get the job done for ya!

Cheers!