American attitude – Corsair Triple Smoke Small Batch Whiskey40%

This month, we braved Ganapathi festival traffic in Mumbai to sample three quite distinct whiskies from three countries – Scotland, Ireland and this American.

Unfortunately, I was insanely delayed reaching so we had two sets of tasting notes… the core group captured beautifully by another member and then her capturing of my ‘speed tasting’ solo impressions. I have definitely never zipped through sampling three whiskies in mere minutes before!

Corsair Triple Smoike

Corsair Triple Smoke

Corsair Triple Smoke 40%, Batch 162, Bottle 153 of 450
For the Corsair, here is what we found:
  • Nose:
    • Group – Medicinal to smoky bacon, the nose gives the feel that it must have body… breathing very well like a “book flippping opening fast,” honey-glazed ham, marmalade
    • Solo – Oily, a bit ‘in your face’ as in ‘Pay Attention!’ but in a good way, overripe fruits, bananas, definitely quite ‘forward’ on the nose… as it opened baby puke sour, bacon then back to sour with the smokey meaty element gone
  • Taste: 
    • Group – Coffee, dry on the tongue, no smoke / peat on taste
    • Solo – Robust, tobacco, chewy, faintly bitter
  • Finish: 
    • Group / Solo – No finish… as in nada
  • Overall – It has attitude and also is quite a character. Worthy of further exploration. Something is going on with this one!
Corsair is an American small batch distillery based in Nashville Tennessee and Bowling Green, Kentucky. They have become a bit of a cult favourite for their edgy fun approach to fine spirits.
Corsair’s description and details for Triple Smoke:
  • Smoky. Buttery. Rich. Crafted for Cocktails.
  • We take three fractions of malted barley, each smoked by a different fuel – cherry wood, peat, and beechwood – to craft this deeply complex whiskey.
  • Pot distilled then barreled in a new charred oak, Triple Smoke has the sweetness and barrel notes of an American whiskey and a single malt’s rich smoke, broadened by tones of cherry and beech. Excellent mixed or neat.
Their tasting notes:
  • Huge, rich flavour. Three smokes with peat at the fore, sweetness and vanillas. Buttery, broad flavour and long finish. Makes a great Manhattan.

Did we like it? You bet!

Check out the other whiskies sampled at our September 2015 session:

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Westland Cask No 395 Hand Filled 54.6%

Can I simply admit I haven’t yet got on the American craft whiskey band-wagon? I’m just not a crazy bourbon fan… and while I certainly recognise there is some great stuff out there, most American whiskies just don’t seem to float my boat in the way a mature, complex, Scottish cask strength whisky does…

Til now… yes… this Westland just might make a convert out of me. I kid you not – it is that good.

Part of our June tasting trio, our host’s partner studied with the master distiller – Matt Hoffman – and they personally visited the ‘lab’ in Seattle to pick up this remarkable dram. Everything about it simply stood out and demanded undivided attention – in the best possible way.

Westland Whiskey (Whisky Lady)

Westland Whiskey (Whisky Lady)

Westland hand filled 54.6% 
Cask strength, cask No 395, bottle no 365 which was hand filled by our host on 2/5/2015
  • Nose – Sweet peaty charcoal, fills up the glass with its aroma, prunes and plums, the kind of nose that makes you salivate and want to immediately dive in, a scent reminiscent of village life heating water in copper handis with a hint of smoke, fermentation… after it is left for a bit, we returned to discover freshly baked cookies
  • Taste – A bubbly champagne, like a bright proseco with a ‘zing’ that continues, dry, smokey quality that remains on the tongue, an odd yet pleasant astringentness, chilli with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, secretive ash, complicated, an odd yet likable old dry roasted puffed rice
  • Finish – Long… sweet and lingers with a delayed  bitterness
  • Water – Spicy tarka
Here is a whiskey that is simply bursting with character! Very creative, complex, insanely interesting. While likely only three years, Westland has managed to produce a whisky people will definitely enjoy. In our opinion. this whisky is in the ‘watch out’ category as opposed to simply ‘interesting but…’ league.
Westland Cask No 395 (Whisky Lady)

Westland Cask No 395 (Whisky Lady)

Our host shared her experience visiting his  lab in Seattle, enjoying an opportunity to sample a range of whiskies before picking this one – hand filling her own bottle. She described the new make spirit as ‘almost there’ even before maturing in new American oak casks – amazing. In part, this is a result of Matt’s practise of using Belgium yeast which gives the whiskies a slightly chocolate flavour.

There are few reviews out there of Westland and even fewer for Cask No 395 – which alas is now sold out. The official notes share:

The latest cask in our Hand-Filled series is Cask #395, filled with 30% of our signature 5-malt new make spirit and 70% peated new make spirit. Interestingly, the peated malt doesn’t dominate the character of the final whiskey. The 5-malt holds its own and more while the heavy toast/light char cask adds a nice third dimension to the overall profile.

FLAVOR PROFILE NOTES

This multi-dimensional whiskey has a lot to offer. The peat notes are floral and fruity with a mossy aroma on the nose, all underpinned by smoky barbecued meat. The presence of the 5-malt is exhibited by a backdrop of waffle cone with chocolate custard.

For more info, check out their website – Westland Distillery – Thoughtfully Made

Or see what others say about the distillery:

For many, the Westland was the highlight of our June 2015 monsoon tasting trio which also featured whiskies from Ireland and Scotland:
Monsoon trio - Tullamore DEW Phoenix, Westland Cask No 395, Ledaig 18 year (Whisky Lady)

Monsoon trio – Tullamore DEW Phoenix, Westland Cask No 395, Ledaig 18 year (Whisky Lady)

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey 46% (2014, Batch 1)

In our quest to sample interesting drams, members of our whisky tasting group sometime just gamble and grab when an unfamiliar bottle presents itself – without the chance for  advance research.

That is exactly how years ago, long before the rave reviews, Sullivans Cove found its way into one member’s collection. He was curious about what Tasmania produces… And lucky us… his curiosity lead to our sampling a great whisky at a time it was sold out in most markets.

The thing about a surprise is that while it can be a delight, it equally can be a disaster.

In the case of this Hudson, one member stumbled across the craft distillery while traveling in the US. Attractively encased in a squat 375 ml old style apothecary bottle, its bright ruby-red beckons, hand labeled with the year, batch and bottle… however… the proof is always in the blind sampling where packaging has no influence!

This is what we found in our May 2015 tasting session…

Hudson Singel Malt Whiskey

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey (Whisky Lady)

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey 46%
2014, Batch 1, Bottle 282
  • Colour – Ruby red
  • Nose – Cherries, pear, then a peculiar strong varnish, just too ‘woody’, musty
  • Taste – Flat and frankly yuck! Spat out by more than one… just too woody in the wrong way. In short – no one liked it. No one could even describe it on their palate because it was not even remotely close to what we seek in a whisky
  • Finish – Bitter in an annoying way but blessedly short
  • Water – Spicy and double yuck!
More info:
  • Tuthilltown Spirits from Gardiner, NY is a micro distillery opened in 2003 and acquired by William Grant and Sons in 2010
  • It produces the Hudson whiskey range – named for its location in the Hudson Valley – along with vodka, gin and other spirits
  • They pride themselves on being a ‘craft’ distillery and focus on using local grains – from farmers less than 10 miles away
  • In this case, it is 100% malted barley, pot-stilled and aged under 4 years in charred new oak ‘petite’ barrels (according to the label)
We speculated that high contact between new make spirit and wood in smaller barrels, in this case, simply does not produce the aromas and flavours we find appealing.
In reading further about this whiskey, I understand they have a two-step process:
  • Split the spirit then age part for approx 6 months in ‘petite’ casks (3 gallon barrels) and the balance for 18 – 24 months in 14 gallon barrels
  • Then blend the two together until make the whiskey profile
The results for us were very much in the ‘disappointing’ territory – for our host clearly the ‘disaster’ end of the spectrum as he had expectations of something distinctive in a positive way.
Hudson

Hudson close-up (Whisky Lady)

While it is always interesting to try something unfamiliar, none would buy it and I wonder how our friend will dispose of the balance? Would it work in a reduction sauce over a red meat? (suggests the vegetarian). Perhaps a cocktail??

It is notable that the distiller suggests putting the single malt in a Manhattan variation with Pinot Noir, rosemary syrup, raspberry purée, lime and plum bitters… not an appealing sounding combination to me. However I’m decidedly against sweet ‘girly’ drinks. Give me a dirty martini over a Manhattan any day!

Truth be told, many months later our host generously donated this bottle to the Whisky Ladies for our American cocktail evening. Still nothing brilliant but either oxidation toned down the varnish or the ladies were in a more charitable mood that evening given it was contrasted with Jim Beam and JD!

As we venture beyond the average fare, we are bound to have a few misses with our hits. Which makes me all the more appreciative of options to buy whisky in smaller bottles – 375 ml like this one, 500 ml like my still un-opened KininVie or the whiskies I found in Tokyo with 180 ml (Chita & Nikka) and 200 ml (Ichiro’s Houou-uhi) bottles. These are a great way to share a sample with a few folks and then only splurge for the ‘full’ volume if the whisky achieves ‘full’ favour!

Normally, after I write our tasting notes, I like to see what others have to say. In this case I’m frankly puzzled… some folks seem to LIKE this whiskey which, to our collective palates, bordered on the undrinkable territory. This may partly be due to significant differences between what was produced in 2011 (most reviews seem to be from this year) and 2014 (our bottle).

Here are a few reviews I found interesting:

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