Fighting Cock

As the weather cools and the sun makes itself scarce, my choice in beverage leans towards the warming comfort of whiskey.  As I watch the rain (and yes, some flakes of snow) drop on this cool October evening, I am eased into a sense of tranquility by a small glass of the Fighting Cock.  I acquired this bottle on a whim recently and this seems like as good a time as any to experience its  offerings.

The Fighting Cock is a Kentucky straight bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky.  The bottle is sparse and likely unappealing to most casual and experienced customers alike.  The name itself seems meant more as a challenge to the consumer than an invitation.  As I mentioned, I bought this on a whim and had no idea what to expect.

Bottled at an angry 51.5% abv, the colour is rich with copper.  The bourbon is aged 6 years, though the age statement no longer appears on the bottle.

The nose is strong and starts the tasting experience appropriately for such a whisky.  A symphony of spice, vanilla, and caramel is supported by nuts and dried fruit.  This is a rich overture.

The palate does not disappoint.  It starts off sweet with honey and caramel, but quickly turns to spice, nuts, wood, leather, and vanilla.  There’s a change at the very end which I find hard to describe, like the flavours, as strong as they are, aren’t enough completely mask the strength the alcohol in the whisky.  Still, it’s quite nice and quickly forgotten.

The finish is spicy and long, with caramel rounding out the wood and light overlay of honey.

Adding some water releases even more spice, dulls a bit of the alcohol, and even opens up a tinge of citrus  to the palate.  I highly recommend taking this with a bit of water, the strengths are made more strong and the weakness masked.

Overall, this is a substantial product and I am more than happy to have found it.  Available at the SAQ in Quebec for about $35, it’s a decent value.  Ontario does not carry it at the moment, naming issues may trouble the Queen’s subjects in that province.




Whisky Showdown! MacAllan Cask Strength vs. Glenfarclas 105

It’s a Christmas miracle! Another Whiskey Showdown just in time for the holidays.

On this festive occasion, I pit the MacAllan Cask Strength against the Glenfarclas 105.

My regular readers, if any, will remember from my initial review of the Glenfarclas 105 that, in 1968 George S. Grant, the grandfather of the current chairman, bottled a cask at 105 degrees British Proof for Christmas and thus gave birth to the product.  Thus, this Whiskey Showdown is as timely as it is special.

The MacAllan is aged in its famous sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain and is a benchmark of quality in the world of whiskies.

The MacAllan is bottled at 60.1% abv and appears a beautiful mahogany red bordering on copper. The Glenfarclas is similarly bottled at 60% abv and is closer to a golden copper tone in appearance.

The nose of the MacAllan is ripe with dried fruits, vanilla, orange, and hints of fig. The nose of the Glenfarclas is more sweet, sharing some of the citrus in the form of orange peel, but mixing in apple, pear, caramel, and honey. This is starting off as an exercise in contrasts as the two whiskies put on entirely different experiences on the nose.

On the palate, the MacAllan is juicy and filled with dried fruits and figs, hinting of vanilla throughout. The Glenfarclas starts with spices and fruits, apples, figs, and honey. Surprisingly, it’s quite dry on the back end. Much like the nose, there’s a big difference in the tasting experience.

The finish on the MacAllan is long and spicy, filled with orange and oak. Some smoke fills in the gaps. The Glenfarclas is warm and gritty, with fruits making a final stand to a nicely balanced whisky.

Overall, these whiskies are both good and worth a taste. They aren’t what I would call every day drams, however. I hesitate to make a call, these are so different and will appeal differently depending on individual tastes. Personally, I find the MacAllan smoother and more agreeable, but the big bold impression of the Glenfarclas does have its merits. Whichever you choose, I hope the holidays find you well and wish a wonderful new year.


Whisky Showdown! Macallan Select Oak vs. Macallan Cask Strength

A hot summer’s day is not usually a time I steal away to sip my favourite whiskies, but the cooling effect of the light rain falling as I sit under the eaves on the deck has motivated me to try a couple of Macallan products head to head. This evening’s pugilists are none other than the Macallan Select Oak from Macallan’s 1824 series and the Macallan Cask Strength, reviewed in this pages not too long ago. My review of these two Macallans should take place with the usual disclaimer that water was added to the 60% abv Macallan Cask Strength to reduce the alcohol proportion, though only a drop or two was added to the travel retail exclusive Select Oak.

The colour on the Select Oak is more pale than the deep shade of the Cask Strength. The elegance of the gold colour on the Select Oak is contrasted with the bold if not aggressive amber of the Cask Strength.

The softer nose on the Select Oak asks for recognition of its light fruits, honey, and gentle cinnamon and spice. The nose on the Cask Strength calls to attention a bold statement of oak, strong fruits, including orange, chocolate, and caramel. No nonsense on the Cask Strength, this is a whisky that is looking for trouble, and in my case has found it!

The palate on the Select Oak, with its grainy texture and butty core, requests notice of sweet fruits and cinnamon. The Select Oak demands immediate notice of its oak, apple, fruit, honey, noix de grenoble, caramel, cinnamon swirls, and strength. This Cask Strength is a heavyweight contender and is not shy about its intentions.

The finish on both are long, smooth, and flattering. The Select Oak ends as it started, softer than the Cask Strength and fading into memory of sweet fruits. The Cask Strength is more durable, keeping up the fight with spice, orange, and oak.

Overall, the winner is the Cask Strength. Though price points are higher on the Cask Strength, the whisky is fuller, more complete, complex, and flexible.


Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. Macallan Cask Strength

A fantastic matchup today, the Macallan 12 goes up against the Macallan Cask Strength. I normally pit cask strengths against like products, but given the two products eminate from the same distillery, I am curious as to how these whiskies compare.

Both products look similar with the only difference being a slightly deeper shade of red on the cask strength. The legs run a tad slower and thicker on the Macallan 12.

On the nose, the Macallan 12 is softer than the Macallan Cask Strength. The latter is less fruity than the former and more of the wood and smoke comes through. Otherwise, there is little difference between the two.

On the palate, the differences are more readily identified. The Macallan 12 is softer, less obviously fruity, stronger in vanilla, and lighter in texture. The Macallan Cask Strength pulls no punches. The fruit is powerful, the texture is deeper, it is bolder in bringing out the wood from the cask, sweeter overall, and stronger with the smoke.

The finishes on both are satisfying and complex. The cask strength is nuttier and a bit longer. The 12 is somewhat more bitter on the finish.

Overall, these are two nice whiskies. However, there is a clear winner in this showdown and I am at ease in declaring the Macallan Cask Strength the victor. The cask strength is a more complex experience. The stronger flavours are coupled with a degree of variety seldom experienced with whiskies so young. It is more malleable as well, allowing the drinker to experiment with the alcohol quotient and arrive at a level most suitable for his taste.

Therefore, budgets allowing, I strongly recommend the Macallan Cask Strength over the 12. If you buy it during a promotional period, as I did, you can have it for a bargain. It is currently available in ample quantities in Quebec and New Hampshire. However, Ontario has limited quantities of a different batch than the one I have reviewed in these pages.


The Macallan Cask Strength

Macallan’s Fine Oak series was born out of the distillery’s misplaced notion that consumers prefered lighter, bourbon cask aged whiskies. Thankfully, their core products were not discontinued and Macallan decided to join the growing ranks of distilleries producing cask strenght bottles. I picked out up recently at the SAQ for about $96, but was given a gift card for 15% of that amount as a reward for purchasing above the promotions price point. The LCBO in Ontario carries the bottle for about $100.

This whisky is aged in Macallan’s famous sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain at 60.1% abv. I remark that the bottle contains a neat little hologram of Easter Elchies House, the “spiritual home” of the Macallan. Perhaps this is to prevent counterfeits. Of note, I recently learned that guests of the distillery can stay at the Easter Elchies house.

Instantly, I am impressed by the deep, rich amber/copper colour of the whisky. A stunning display of how high quality sherry casks can impart their qualities on a whisky which I assume to be aged a short period as no age statement is given on this bottle. Some distilleries may age their products longer but use lower quality casks, Macallan seasons its casks for two years with aged sherry before shipping the selected barrels to the distillery in Scotland.

The whisky runs quick, thin legs in my glass after a good swirl.

The nose is intense with caramel, orange, spice, oak, dried fruit, chocolate, and a touch of vanilla.

The palate swells with dried fruit, orange, warm figs, and a hint of vanilla.

The finish is long and full, leaving spice and fruit behind.

I tried this one first without water and added some more until it reached about 50% abv. I normally water down cask strength whiskies to about 45% to 50% and find that this works best in optimizing the tasting experience. However, this is a matter of personal preference and cask strength products allow a degree of experimentation.

The water intensifies the orange on the nose and makes the vanilla more clear.

The palate showcases the dried fruit again, adds some caramel, and strengthens the vanilla. It still warms the tongue when held a few seconds and reminds me of warmed figs, but the intensity is not as strong as before on this level.

The finish is longer still and zestier than before. The spice lingers and memories of oak and orange with the faintest hint of smoke follow.

This is a fantastic find and well worth the price of admission. I hear, however unconfirmed, that the product is discontinued. If this is the case, I implore that you seek out a bottle at your nearest dealer of fine spirits and add this one to your collection.


Macallan Cask Strength 3

Glenfarclas 105

This whisky review has been a long time in the making.  I have had a soft spot for cask strength editions for quite some time, and having greatly enjoyed Glenfarclas’ 17 year old edition, I have longed for a taste of their cask strength product.  I have patiently waited until now to try a dram though I have held it in my stock for some time now.  The product is called Glenfarclas 105.  The story behind the name is explained on the box by John Grant, chairman of Glenfarclas.  As the story goes, in 1968 George S. Grant, the grandfather of the current chairman, bottled a cask at 105 degrees British Proof for Christmas and thus gave birth to the product.  The current edition is bottled at 60% abv after 10 years of aging in some of the finest casks in Glenfarclas’ warehouses.

Now that we’re done with the history lesson, time to taste the product and determine whether it was a gift well received in Christmas of 1968.

An amber colour greets the eyes and a good swirl produces thick, slow running legs.  Quite nice.

The nose is caramel and apple, some pear, spice, pie crust, honey,  a hint of cinnamon, and orange peel .  Maybe a bit of vanilla at the back end of that.  It is soft and sweet, but deeply satisfying.

The palate is just as satisfying with a rush of sweet fruits, caramel, apple, honey, and oak in the background.  The texture is a bit gritty though.

The finish is long and warm, yielding more honey, sweet fruits, oak, and vanilla.

Adding a healthy dose of water changes the texture and lightens the intensity of it all.

The nose maintains its initial charms and adds a bit of melon and nut.

The palate adds banana and nut, apricot, sherry, raisins and a hint of tangerine.

The finish stays long, but smoother than before.

Overall, this is quite a revelation in the world of cask strength whiskies that tend to come on a bit too strong.  Though the whisky warms the mouth, it does not burn.  Though I am not a fan of gritty whiskies, the overall experience on this one is pleasant and casually invites the drinker to continue experiencing all that it has to offer.  A complex whisky, it can be purchased at the SAQ for about $73 or $74 whereas the LCBO is retailing it for about $80 so go figure.

Enjoy this one neat at first to address it in its raw state, then go ahead and take it with water to take out some of the grit and expose the hidden qualities of this whisky.

Oh, and by the way I’ve already got this bottle if you’re thinking of Christmas gifts, but feel free to give it to another worthy soul on your Christmas list.  They will not be disappointed.


Knob Creek Single Barrel

A while back I reviewed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. That is the only bourbon I have tasted for this blog to date and it’s time to change that with a tasting of a little known product from Knob Creek. The single barrel from Knob Creek is bottled at 60% alcohol by volume. A bold move that takes the experience to the next level, allowing the drinker to take on more water without adversely affecting the taste. Even a cube of ice could be considered without drawing my glare.

This is a Kentucky bourbon sourced from a single barrel, apparently chosen from amongst the highest quality honey barrels available to the distiller. Most bottlings are a mix of several barrels. It leaves me to wonder how uniform the experience is from one barrel to the other.

The colour is a deep, gorgeous amber. A nine year old bourbon and looking good for all that time in the barrel.

The nose is sweet and the notes of honey are unmistakable. Some spice and cinnamon are present.

The palate is rich. The complex mixture of honey, spice, and cinnamon leaves a warm feeling in the mouth. I feel like this drink would be perfect on a long, cold winter night with a nice book and a comfortable chair. In fact, it reminds be of the taste of the gingerbread men we make for Christmas.

The finish is not particularly long, but intense. Spice, cinnamon, and pepper give way to sweet honey before fading nearly completely in a relatively short time. However, a faint impression of sweetness lingers on the sides of the tongue for quite a while.

Note that this tasting took place with water added from the get go to correct for the alcohol content. If I try this variety without water at some point, I will update this space.

Overall, this is a fantastic whiskey. A wonderful blend of flavours that will assault your senses without offending them. Give this a try if you can find it, I first discovered it in the United States and have seen it crop up intermittently in Quebec. Much less expensive in the US though, I highly suggest you pick it up there if you have the possibility of bringing it back with you.