Tag Archives: Banana

Arran Port Cask – bottled at 50% ABV

Islands region – 50%ABV – £38 | €45

I’ve got to hand it to the folks at Arran Malt Distillery – every single one of their single malt whiskies are bottled at a minimum of 46% ABV and are non-chill filtered.

“What does that mean?” you might ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.  Or, should I say, I’ll give you my opinion on the matter:

At 46% ABV, I feel I’m given the freedom to drink the stuff straight or add a wee bit of water, just incase it’s too hot.  At 46%, some of the added dimension to the whisky imparted by the alcohol remains.

With the whisky not being chill filtered, there are a lot of great fatty acids that stay in the whisky which help it retain it’s maximum flavor.

As an example of chill filtering verses non-chill filtering, you can check out my review of The Balvenie 21yr Portwood here where I compare the two different versions.

OK, going to go right into this one here…  Another special cask finish by Arran – a bit of a strange one but hey, I like strange.

On the nose Spicy nose with initial hits of spiced shittake mushroom.

Unripened bananas.

Cinnamon applesauce, perhaps with some raspberry mixed in.

Traces of green apple-y new make spirit.

White pepper.

Smoked salt on watermelon (my wife introduced me to this delicious treat – try it sometime – delicious!  The woman shown is NOT my wife, by the by).

On the mouth Fresh grapes and fizzy grape soda, Welch’s style.

A dry cool night filled with fallen leaves.

Salty on the mouth with added notes of starfruit.

Some soured milk/baby sick… an interesting group of flavors.

Finish A tad garlicy with some hot pepper.  Good length.

In sum Light yet warming – the autumnal note in the tasting of this hit it on the head.  A warmer-upper of a whisky.  It’s youth is apparent but this is not a fault.  I enjoyed the brightness.  An extra year or two in a bourbon cask may have helped to balance this whisky out a bit but, if it were in your house house and you offered me some of this whisky; I’d not say no.  I may jump at the chance to sip more.  Fun stuff.

Special thanks goes out to Andy Hogan for the sample!

Field Trip to Tuthilltown Distillery plus two Hudson Whiskey tastings

Tuthilltown Distillery, Gardiner NY – Tour, store & tasting room

Tutilltown Distillery sits quite nicely in the woody woods in beautiful upstate New York.  Tuthilltown, makers of “Hudson Real American Whiskeys”, is a small place with a dirt driveway and parking lot, port-o-potty bathroom sitting outside the tasting room (quite far away mind you) and has two cats and a dog wandering the property.  Don’t let this description scare you away – pulling up, you sort of feel like your at a home away from home.  There’s an inviting feel to it somehow.

Then, as you walk into the store/tasting room, you get the sweet smell of maturing bourbon and a really, really nice view of their barrel stock:

After getting-a-lo to all of these beautiful barrels (most of which were quite small, some at only 3 gallons!) I met with a very nice woman by the name of Luz.  She’s in charge of the store and provided some great conversation as I waited for the tour guide to arrive.

When the guide was ready, Luz walked me over to the actual distilling building where I then met with a tall hipster-type dude by the name of Liam.  Before I go on, I will tell you that this is the first distillery tour I have ever been on and I did not know what to expect.  I can tell you, throughout the whole experienced I was a wide eyed boy in a candy store!  Actually, it felt more like I was Charlie visiting Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (sans the Oompa-Loopmas, Gene Wilder and Slugworth).

Liam took me through the entire distilling process, room through room (which is nearly the same for their bourbons, rye, single malt & vodkas).  I will not go into tremendous detail here but I will say what surprised me the most was how very hands-on the whole process is.  Liam (and the other distillers) have their fancy-fingers on everything and you can tell that it is a true labor of love for them and, as you’ll see in my tasting notes below, this love and care shines through to the end product.

I was quite wowed by their two stills (at least one of which was imported from Germany and was originally used for making Lambic beers).

Also, as you’ll notice below on their cute little 375ml bottles, they have a very thick coating of wax keeping the cork in place.  Before I got to the distillery, I pictured a long conveyor belt with robotic arms grabbing bottles, 8 at a time, robotically corking and dipping the bottles to then place on another conveyor belt to bring the hot-waxy bottles to a cooling area, etc…

Instead, this is what I saw:

All four bottles are placed, by hand, onto the dipping posts (I totally made up that term, dipping posts – Tuthilltown folks, feel free to used that nomenclature for this dipping apparatus) then dipped, again by hand, into the wax.  The bottles are then labeled (you guessed, by hand – using a hand-cranked labeler).

Liam – thank you for your tour!  Very informative, very cool.

Ok, onto my tasting during the tour:

I met with a guy, I’m guessing about my age, by the name of Gable.  His father is one of the fine, smart, folks who opened this distillery.  Which, by the way, is the first legally operated distillery in New York State since Prohibition!!  Also, their bourbon is the first bourbon to *ever* be produced legally in New York State.  Like I said, smart folks – very innovative!

Gable is one of these super-charming and disarming type guys.  A charismatic dude who knows his business quite well.  Gable went on to provide a tasting of their current line (at least the ones they could legally taste/sell in their tasting room/store):  Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, Hudson Baby Bourbon, Hudson Four Grain Bourbon, Hudson Manhattan Rye, Heart of the Hudson Apple Vodka (twice distilled), Spirit of the Hudson Apple Vodka (thrice distilled).

Their Vodkas, by the way, are Kosher for Passover as they are distilled from apples, not grain — Cheers on that!!

While I wont be giving notes on all the spirits tasted, I can provide notes for the two bourbons I went home with (what, you thought I could leave empty handed??  I had to buy me some booze!).

Before I go on with the notes allow me to say that these whiskeys only come in 375ml bottles and cost $41 per bottle.  This being said, the fluid contained within the bottles are worth their weight in whiskey!  This is hand-crafted artisan American Whiskey.  Quite unique and very special stuff.

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon

On the nose One thing I truly love about the Tuthilltown/Hudson Whiskeys is that the smells and tastes are very direct.  When I say I smell “Corn”, it’s like it’s fresh off the cob.  Just under the corn is the very clear smell of fresh dirt/earth (as if someone was holding a handful directly under my nose).  I’m also smelling burnt sugar and honeysuckle, blueberry (very subtle, the only subtle smell here) and vanilla.  Gobs of vanilla.

On the mouth Oh sweet fancy Moses!  The flavors basically started a mosh-pit in my mouth (it’s like there’s a Dead Kennedys show, circa 1984, right on my tongue). The attack is great, fierce yet quite welcome.  This is a strong, burly bourbon which is filled with a mouth puckering sweetness a la sweet corn, cinnamon, Orange Tang Powder, the taste of the smell of clove cigarettes, oak and quite some vanilla again.

Finish Long, peppery and biting.  I want more (why do these only come in 375ml bottles!?).  More corn.  Candied corn (NOT Candy-Corn if you catch my meaning) actually; that and some nice citrus, then finally more fresh dirt/earth.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

On the nose Movie popcorn with butter, vanilla & burnt sugar (again), no fresh earth smell here, rather, it’s replaced by a slightly soap citrus notes, Red Wax Lips.

On the mouth Fresh & warmed buttered corn on the cob.  Again, Tuthilltown delivers with their very direct flavors – yum!  I feel like I am on a picnic right now.  Banana peel & vanilla cream, the citrus returns.

Finish During my tasting with Gable I noticed an odd note in the palate of their Manhattan Rye expression.  A note that I detected in the finish of this Baby Bourbon – Jujubes!

Specifically the orange ones before Heide Candies changed their recipe (back in the late 90’s early 2000’s) – quite soapy and very orangey.

Love it!!  That’s the final note on the finish.  Before I got that I noted some warming caramel, vanilla and oak.

In sum This was a great introduction to the whole process.  While I spent the last three years educating myself in the tasting of whisk(e)y, I just now got a nice crash-course in the whisk(e)y creation process.  One I will never forget.  If I were you, I would seek out Tuthilltown’s Hudson Whiskeys.  A true American Treat.

If you ever find yourself in New York State, seek this distillery out .  They provide tours on weekends and their store is open from 11am – 5pm.  For more information on Tuthilltown and their whiskeys, check it here.

Highland Park 18yr – The best dram I’ve tasted in 2009!

Islands – 43%ABV – 750ml bottle – $75-99 | £55 | €64

I’ve read so many reviews on the HP18 (Highland Park, not Harry Potter, come on people!!) I figured, enough is enough – I had to try just to see what all the hoop-a-lah was about.

Back in October of 2009 I went to The Scottish Arms in St. Louis Missouri. If you’ve never been, go. Now. More than 150 drams (Scottish, Japanese, American, you name it) on their whisky menu – amazing! Well, while I was there I tried the HP18 and all I could say was…”eh…, so what”


I realized the reason the whisky was so sub-stellar was just because of the type of glass they used (should have brought my own Glencairn) and the fact that I had food getting in the way of the tasting. Note to self: only taste when you’re either A) done with food or B) haven’t had food yet (though on an empty stomach… that can be…ummmm…fun?!).

So, after many people telling me that I must be crazy for thinking the Highland Park 18 was no more than a big yawn, a little while later, I decided to shut them up and lay down the casheesh to buy a bottle.  I actually got the bottle for much less than what is shown but, it was an eBay buy so I won’t post that price.  Let’s just say, I got it for about the price of the standard 12yr bottle of Highland Park!!

Around this time I was reading that many people do their whisky tasting in the morning time so I decided to conduct my tasting during that time myself.  What a way to start the day!!  The following notes, by the way, were written in October, 2009:

Nose (almost 3 full whiffs!!) Not as smokey as I had anticipated. Very sweet smelling, almost juicy with an underlying smokiness to it. Second whiff: More of the same, this time a little more smoke but now the oak came out a bit and something almost tropical – overripe banana perhaps? I couldn’t wait for the 3rd whiff…

Palate Absolutely one of the most succulent drops I’ve ever had! The smoke was underlying but kept peaking it’s head out and was balanced so well by the sweetness. Sherry notes but thankfully not overly so. The age came out a bit, long vanilla oak notes and more sweet smoke. G-d damn, I’m in heaven!

Finish Soft and silky, warming (which is much needed as it was 33deg F this morning!), smokey and long.

In sum Those who know me now I am a devoted fan of the Glenmorangie line but I have to say, with the exception of the D’or (which remains to be my dram of choice), this has knocked all of the other Glenmos out of the way! Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s because I had it in the morning, I don’t know. I can tell you that I think I’m in love.