Brush with Bourbon – Elmer T Lee 45%

Last in our trio of bourbon’s at 1602 Dundas was a dram from Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky who produce Blanton’s, W. L. Weller, E. H. Taylor and Buffalo Trace among others. Elmer T Lee is named after their Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon 45%

Image: LCBO

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Sweet mash, fruity cinnamon spice, over ripe fruits
  • Palate – Grape, raisins, bitter dry oaky, spicy
  • Finish – Slow bitter finish

Elmer T Lee has the clear and unmistakable stamp of Kentucky Bourbon character – lots of fruit, spice, bold and impossible to ignore.

While we split a 30 ml shot, a 750 ml bottle can be purchased at a Toronto LCBO for CND 54.95. Here what they have to say…

LCBO’s Tasting & Serving Notes

Complex and addictive. Scents of cinnamon, hazelnuts, and dried fruit precede big flavors: cinnamon spice, raisinated and plummy, like Madeira or Sherry. Long finish, with a bit of a bite. Score – 97. (Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2010).

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from Buffalo Trace:

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Brush with Bourbon – Basil Hayden’s 40%

Next in our brush with Bourbon informal flight at 1602 Dundas was a bourbon from the Jim Beam stable – part of their small batch bourbons such as Knob Creek. Styled after the mash created by its namesake Basil Hayden, it uses double the rye of a standard Kentucky bourbons.

Image: Beam Suntory

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon 40%

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Resin, herbal, oats, cereals, sweet, honey, woody, treacle
  • Palate – Initial ‘yeowch’, then acclimatized to it, revealing some spices
  • Finish – There but..

What is fabulous about the world of whisky is the range of styles – something for everyone! However I’ve learned that my palate preferences veer away from both bourbon and rye… Which meant this whisky had a double strike against it as it both is very clearly a bourbon with a higher rye quotient.

What I enjoyed most was the nose – I could keep sniffing it and finding more elements. For me, the kick would be a brilliant dimension in certain cocktails – one where the interesting elements in the nose are given full room to shine with the rye spiciness and character on the palate punching up the drink.

Here’s what the folks over at the LCBO have to say:

The recipe for this classic Bourbon dates back to 1796. Amber in colour; on the nose are notes of dried apricot, caramel, custard, green peppercorn and hay; on the palate it is medium-bodied and warming, with flavours of white pepper, burnt sugar, dried white flowers and vanilla that finishes with a lingering herbal spice.

This bottle was released in February 26, 2015, made in Kentucky, USA by Beam Global Spirits and Wines with a style described as medium & spicy.

While we split a 30 ml shot, it can be purchased at Toronto LCBO for CND $53.95.

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from the Beam Suntory family:

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Brush with Bourbon – Black Maple Hill 47.5%

We started off our 1602 Dundas bourbon trio evening with a small batch Kentucky straight bourbon with handmade sour mash and mysterious origins – Black Maple Hill.

Image: K&L Wines, Different bottle

Black Maple Hill Kentucky Straight Bourbon 47.5%

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Treacle, molasses, raisins, black pepper, rich…
  • Palate – Spice, sweet, not at all harsh
  • Finish – There then goes, bitter sweet

Most enjoyable, very drinkable… spunky character… it reminded me of Elijah Craig – in a good way.

I will admit I tasted just a small sample with a friend knowing nothing about the bourbon. I’ll admit again – I’m not really a bourbon drinker, but this certainly was more to my taste than most.

What was amusing is when I dug a little deeper to find out more about Black Maple Hill… guess what… it seems the one we had may possibly have elements from the same folks behind Elijah Craig… whaddya know!

Or is it?? The story isn’t so simple… it was once said to mostly come from the Stizel-Weller distillery and bottled by Julian van Winkle – an insiders secret with quality rare bourbons aged from 11 – 22 years… It then was labelled as aged for 8 years and garnered spill-over hype from the elusive over-priced Pappy… selling for thousands of dollars!

The dark rust label no longer claims an age and while Heaven Hill is credited on sites such as The Whisky Exchange, you won’t find Heaven Hill claiming it as one of its American whiskey brands. Throw into the mix Willett Distillery – which for the most part does not distill its own spirits and has even been known to put out products under fictitious companies… And others from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) and you have a mystery blend from various unknown sources. Then the new Stein Distillery from Oregon came into picture… leading to a new spin-off Black Maple Hill from Oregon.

Alas my photo from our evening is madingly blurry and indistinct, however it was labelled as Kentucky straight bourbon and given the flavour profile of what we sampled, I’m guessing it shares some of the same bourbon source as Elijah Craig.

And what’s the reasonably reliable story? Read David Driscoll’s tale on K&L Wines in which he reveals:

So here it is – the story of Black Maple Hill.  A Bourbon made somewhere in Kentucky, sold to KBD, blended at their facility, sold to Paul Joseph, slapped with a romantic label, and distributed down the street from K&L in Redwood City.

All that matters? Of the trio we tasted that evening, this was my choice!

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

  • Black Maple Hill Kentucky Straight Bourbon 47.5% – This post
  • Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon 40%
  • Elmer T Lee Kentucky Bourbon 45%

Other forays into American whiskies….

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1602 Dundas in Toronto – A Brush with Bourbon

When I travel, I enjoy seeking out whisky watering holes… from a collector’s paradise like The Auld Alliance in Singapore to the unabashedly curious range of Winnipeg’s Whisky Bar at Toad in the Hole.

Naturally my latest trip to Toronto (September 2017) had to include a chance to explore… in this case 1602 Dundas – a local joint conveniently found mere walking distance from where I was staying.

Well known for its cocktails, it has a most respectable range for a neighbourhood haunt – a mere 300 whiskies – all served in a chilled out, no pretence vibe where you can kick back, relax, enjoy a drink, discussion and throw in some whisky discoveries too.

After a short chat, knew we were in good hands with the lovely lady barkeep. As I perused the shelves, decided to plunge into waters I don’t normally tred – bourbon.

Image: Yelp Amanda C

Our wee brush with bourbons explored:

This was followed by a cocktail which was exceedingly well made and far too easy to drink.

And while I’m still not a huge bourbon fan… but I do love what ex-bourbon casks do to help the world of whisky!

Where can you find it?

  • 1602 Dundas is located at 1602 Dundas West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6K 1T8. 
  • Tel: 416 823 0661 – Currently open only evenings 6 PM – 2 AM
  • Or check out their map…

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Westland Trio – Sherry Wood 46%

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar club’s 2nd July session featured a Westland trio – with a rather interesting order…. starting 1st with the Peated, then their flagship American Oak followed by this – the Sherry Wood.

We sampled blind, with nothing revealed until after all three whiskies were given due consideration.

What did we find?

Westland Sherry Wood 46%

  • Nose – When freshly opened, we were greeted with varnish, musty old furniture, old wood and polish which then began to shift into waxy fruits, on the edge of becoming over-ripe, mixed tropical fruits, some kiwis, honey nuts, Quality Street MacIntosh milk, mocha toffee
  • Palate – Soft then the spice grows, lots of toffee, complex layers with depth, banoffee pie, spice, oily mouth feel
  • Finish – A proper finish! Toffee or burnt caramel, stays
  • Water – Brings out a super sweetness, a bit of spice, chocolate

Our conclusion was this was quite a tasty dram, with a good balance. It also paired well with the cigar… which is naturally rather important to the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents!

Here’s what the folks over at Westland have to say:

Westland’s Sherry Wood is a new world approach to an old world idea. For decades, the use of ex-sherry casks for whiskey maturation has been a favored technique in Scotland and beyond. In marrying the decadence of sherry with our unique grain-forward house style we create something altogether new.

 

Like the grain we source, we hold our sherry casks to high standards of quality. These casks held some of the world’s finest Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry for nearly a century and in the skilled hands of Rafael Cabello and his team at Tonelería del Sur in Montilla, Spain they have been given new life and purpose. Our long-standing partnership with his family-owned cooperage now provides us with one of the largest supplies of sherry casks in America.

And their tasting notes:

  • The nose offers an immediate richness, with honey-dipped oatmeal raisin cookies. Maple syrup follows close behind, drizzled over banana pancakes.
  • The palate initially offers some kiwi with more maple and raisin syrup notes. Extended tastings offer a dazzling array of sweet cookies and pastries, getting darker and richer with time before eventually ceding the palate to stewed yellow fruits on the finish.

The other Westland’s whiskies sampled in our trio included:

Not enough Westland?  Check out other tasting experiences:

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Westland Trio – American Oak 46%

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar club’s 2nd July session featured a Westland trio – currently my favourite American distillery, with this my favourite of the three standard official bottlings.

We began with the Westland Peated – an interesting choice as one typically would start with a lighter ex-bourbon. But no – our friend chose to reverse the order beginning 1st with peat then moved on to the flagship single malt – American Oak – neatly covered making it impossible to know what we were sampling.

What did we find?

Westland American Oak 46%

  • Nose – A lovely almost sherry sweet character, spice, pepper, cloves, resin, beeswax, wood sap, fresh pine tree, sweet brioche, pineapple upside down cake, cream… one even suggested Malibu coconut rum! After some time, a sweet creamy banana split, an inviting mix of sweet citrus like blood oranges
  • Palate – Soft, quite light on the palate, smooth, coconut, little spice almost like paprika or cayenne, then after time softens into pink peppercorn, a lovely creamy quality like milk chocolate, far too dangerously drinkable,
  • Finish – A nice medium finish, candy, red liquorice, light spice chaser
  • Water – Pushes spice from the finish to the palate

The nose was initially bursting with character then settled down into a most agreeable and frankly delicious aroma, easy drinking character on the palate with a light but delightful barely there finish.

While not necessarily a cigar whisky, it is exactly the kind of every day dram you want in your whisky cabinet. It is eminently companionable… lovely to sniff, sip and enjoy.

When our Whisky Ladies sampled this back in January 2017, they enjoyed it immensely! With one remarking it simply spoke to her: “Relax my love, just drink me now.”

Here’s what the folks over at Westland have to say:

A flagship malt is the core expression of a distillery’s house style. Westland’s American Oak is a reflection of where it is made and the collective intent of those who made it. When we founded Westland Distillery, we had a vision for an entirely new category of whiskey. Distilled from the rich, flavorful barley of Washington State and matured predominantly in new American oak casks in the steady, cool humidity of our seaside home, this whiskey is a testament to that vision. All of these choices and ingredients conspire to create an approachable, mature and uniquely American single malt that can stand with the best whiskies in the world.

And their tasting notes:

  • The initial nose provides lemon and orange custard backed by freshly produced waffle cone. Shortly after, a rich creaminess emerges with creme brûlée and chocolate custard while a hint of jasmine hides just beneath the surface.
  • The first sip confirms the creamy and rich fruit custard notes of the nose, adding an element of rainier cherries. After five minutes, melting swiss chocolate is revealed with a hint of almond.
  • Extended tastings brings out bananas and cream with Turkish coffee.

The other Westland’s whiskies sampled in our July 2017 trio included:

Not enough Westland?  Check out other tasting experiences:

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Westland Trio – Peated 46%

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar club’s 2nd July session featured a Westland trio – currently my favourite American distillery.

Our whisky and cigar curator for the evening obscured each bottles  so we could have a fully blind tasting experience.

What did we find?

Westland Peated 46%

  • Nose – Immediate sense that this must be 1st fill oak, a nice tingle, ginger, vanilla, honey, bananas, toffee, such sweetness… as it opened further, was joined by old paper, bacon…
  • Palate – A nice spice, sweet wood, rough, with a great subtle peat
  • Finish – Bitter finish, more spice and smoke, a long smell
  • Water – Smoothed out the various elements

Our conclusion was this is a “Drinking not tasting whisky.” One even thought it may be a blend, with its agreeable character.

After sampling all three Westland’s, we returned to the Peated and found the smoke, leather and meats clearly came to the fore… in a way they simply were not present when freshly opened. There was also a sense of old perfume, one even remarked “I’m in an Egyptian Tea House.”

The gents found it paired reasonably well with their cigar, with all well in the world.

Here’s what the folks over at Westland have to say:

This Peated Malt whiskey is a variation on our house style made from a mash of peated malt that is among the smokiest in the world. We combine that with a variety of malt-focused spirits that together create a single malt whiskey that encompasses a wide spectrum of peaty and smoky flavors without dominating the palate. The peat character is sturdy enough to satisfy the cravings of those looking for a solid dose of smoke, while malt-focused mash bills contribute grainy and fruity notes that round out the whiskey. Westland’s Peated Malt is filled primarily into new American oak and 1st-fill used American oak, resulting in a multi-dimensional and balanced peated single malt whiskey.

And their tasting notes:

  • The nose starts off with a background of nuttiness accompanied by smoldering moss and flamed orange peel. The peat leaps from the palate, expressing campfire notes, iodine, and roasted pistachios. With time, the smoldering moss on the nose evolves into burning embers and roasted plantains.
  • The palate also transitions over time, moving towards significant earth notes, green herbs and increasing iodine towards the finish.

The other Westland’s whiskies sampled in our trio included:

Not enough Westland?  Check out other tasting experiences:

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Speed Tasting – Pikesville 110 Proof Straight Rye 55%

My “Speed Tasting” continued with the clock ticking far too quickly! Two drams down… on to the 3rd with approximately 2-3 minutes to quickly rate according to nose, taste, finish, character & complexity.

What were my hasty impressions?

Pikesville 6 year 110 Proof Straight Rye 55%

  • Nose – Took a few moments to calibrate from the earlier whisky as initial impression was varnish! Then over-ripe fruit. VANILLA – with a reason for ‘shouting’ as this was such a dominant note. Then eased into flowers. After more airing (during the revisit post speed tasting), the vanilla had faded and the nose shifted into something deeper
  • Palate – Smooth, finally we found real body, other elements too, fruity, a bit nutty, clearly rye with a spicy chaser
  • Finish – Quite a decent length, savoury and sweet spice
  • Character & Complexity – The first to have some complexity, interesting

Quite a contrast from the earlier whisky, which was all sweetness in the end.

Most were confident this wasn’t Scottish and identified it as a rye. For a few, this was the 2nd highest rated dram of the bunch.

But was it outstanding? 2nd best in the world? Hmm…

And that was exactly the point of our “Speed Tasting” organizer, who mixed into our five mystery malts, Jim Murray’s top 3 whiskies for 2016.

Image Pikesvillerye.com

And what did Jim Murray have to say in his 2016 Whisky Bible about this dram?

  • Nose 24.5/25 – Textbook. The fruitiness of the rye shimmers on the nose; a light spice tingles in Demerara rum fashion. Carry on nosing and you will, if patient and able enough, find unusual depths to which few whiskies reach. The tantalizing chocolate-liquorice at about three quarters depths is one of the aromas of the year;
  • Taste 24.5/25 – After that nose, the delivery just had to be majestic. And it is. The rye grain fair rattles against the teeth, the sugars – crystalline, dark and tinged with both molasses and muscovado – help bring its salivating qualities to a maximum. Then those spices… those wonderful, bustling, fizzing spices…
  • Finish 24/25 – A lovely mix between ulmo and Zambian forest honey keeps the sweetness lingering to the end. The rye, of course, continues to sparkle and spice its way to the last embers of the fade… which is a long way away… 
  • Balance & Complexity 24.5/25 – The most stunning of ryes and the best from Heaven Hill for some time.

And the official Pikesville tasting notes?

  • Colour – Pale copper
  • Nose – Dusty cocoa notes with oaky smoke underneath
  • Palate – Dry and spicy, with honeyed rye and cloves
  • Finish – Soft vanilla and baking spices

While Heaven Hill’s Pikesville was originally from Maryland, it is now produced in  Kentucky, aged for at least 6 years.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What were the other whiskies “Speed Tasted“?

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Speed Tasting Whisky

One fine monsoon weekend, a few folks decided to get together for a lighthearted whisky activity.

Keshav Prakash, of The Vault Fine Spirits, took complete charge and decided we would play a whisky game in 3 parts:

  1. Individual rating
  2. Discussion with comparisons and speculating
  3. Reveal and revisit

In front of us were 5 drams, pre-poured and covered. The rules were simple:

  • Label our rating sheets with our initials and corresponding whisky letter “A… B… C…” as per our table mat
  • Sample each whisky then rate out of 5 on its nose, palate, finish and overall character & complexity
  • Individual activity only – strictly no speaking, comparing impressions or ratings
  • 15 minutes only start to finish then pencils down! Just like in an exam…
  • Beyond that no rules – could get up and walk around, write down more than just the score, whatever worked to achieve a complete rating within the allotted time!

The clock started, the covers came off and the whisky speed dating began…

Part 1 – Speed tasting and rating 

Now… I must confess… I could not rate without documenting my impressions. Long ago I made a conscious decision to not numerically ‘rate’ whisky. So I have never ‘trained’ myself or had the ‘discipline’ of putting hard numbers next to the different elements.

So I pulled out my handy whisky tasting notebook and busily began to scribble random thoughts. That helped sharpen focus and give me enough to then make a split second assessment of each.

Part 2 – Comparing, discussing and guessing

The first question was – are all of these whiskies? Yes.

Then whether some were bourbon, most thought two were ryes… With our votes on which could possibly be which.

Talk turned to some of the different characters – one reminded of cognac cask matured whiskies. Another had peat. We took a stab at guessing some were not Scottish…

Then we shared our individual top rated dram with the overall “winner” the 4th whisky (D) as it had the most character with both sherry and peaty elements.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Part 3 – Revealing…

This is where the real fun began… three were Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible winners, one was an Irish grain and the winner? A house blend made by accident more than design!

What a surprise and what a treat!

Click on the links above to ready my hastily scribbled notes compared with Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible or official tasting notes, where applicable.

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Whisky Cocktail Hour?

While my jaunt around the globe hasn’t quite finished, my quick zip through a few interesting cocktails is a ‘wrap’!

In case you missed any, here is a quick list:

  • Old Fashioned – Bourbon, bitters, sugar with a twist of orange
  • Manhattan – Bourbon, vermouth + bitters
  • Mint Julep – Bourbon, simple syrup, bitters + mint
  • The Ginger Baker – Tennessee whisky, ginger, lime + pineapple juice, orgeat syrup with a slice of pineapple
  • Spiced Boulevardier – Infused bourbon, vermouth, campari with a twist of orange or almonds

These cocktails all came courtesy of a session with DISCUS in May 2017, Mumbai.

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