Bourbon, Calvados, Scotch, Brandy, Liqueurs
90 W. L. Weller Special Reserve Bourbon,
7 years old (Buffalo Trace Distillery, KY) 45% abv, $13. This medium-amber whiskey bears a sweet honeyed nose with a nicely balanced backdrop of fruits and spices. The body is medium and the palate is buttery rich, with notes of honey, berries, vanilla, and a potpourri of spices that take a backseat; the finish is long and buttery.
This is a great whiskey that's greatly underappreciated by most Bourbon lovers in America. Sip it neat or on the rocks. Best Buy.
88 Old Fitzgerald 1849 Bourbon, 8 years old (Heaven Hill Distillery, KY) 45% abv, $16. This burnished-gold whiskey holds a rich, buttery nose, with leather and vanilla playing off some lighter herbaceous notes. The body is big and supple and the palate fairly fruity, with a good balance of spices and tobacco thrown in; the finish is very long.
This is a very good bottling; we recommend you drink it neat. Best Buy.
96 Calvados Christian Drouin, Pays d'Auge, Coeur de Lion (Preiss Imports, CA) 42% abv, $389. This burnished-gold spirit has aromas of sweet butter and caramelized apples with a hint of clover lurking in the backdrop. The body is medium, and the palate is very dry and complex, with apples forming the backdrop, and layer upon layer of spices, herbs, and berries upfront. The finish is deep and long, and leaves the aromas of fresh apples in the nose as it descends the throat.
At almost $400 this calvados should be good, and it lives up to its price admirably. This is one of those rare spirits that seems to change character in the mouth—one second you taste fruits, the next the spices are up to bat.
97 Bowmore Voyage Port Casked Islay Single Malt Scotch (White Rock Distilleries, Inc., ME/Morrison Bowmore Distillers, Scotland) 56% abv, $105. Walnut brown in color. The nose is nutty, with sweet eucalyptus notes dancing in the backdrop, and a faint whiff of old leather. The body is big, and the palate is complex. Here we find a nice briny quality that pairs well to slight winey notes, a short dose of iodine, and an herbal backdrop reminiscent of camomile with a touch of sage. The finish is smooth, long and elegant.
Bowmore has done it again. Here's a whisky that's so well balanced that, even when sipped neat at 56% alcohol by volume, it glides down the throat leaving you thinking that you've just seen what's on the other side of the mountain.
89 Dewar's 12-year-old Blended Scotch (John Dewar & Sons/Bacardi U.S.A., FL) 43% abv, $30. Very light amber in color. The nose on this Scotch bears honey/peat aromas along with a dash of old leather. The body is medium, leaning toward full, and the palate has lots of character even though it's lacking in the complexity department. Notes of leather, dark berries, a dash of peat, and a hint of honey are all there, and they are nicely woven together. The finish is long.
This Scotch is very different from the company's White Label product and will probably prove to be very popular as a superpremium bottling—especially considering the price. Best Buy.
84 Bowmore Dusk Bordeaux Wine Casked Islay Single Malt Scotch (White Rock
Distilleries, Inc., ME/Morrison Bowmore Distillers, Scotland) 50% abv, $65. Deep mahogany with reddish flecks. The nose on this whisky is more medicinal than usual from this distillery. It bares a strong dose of iodine backed by some sweet honey-like aromas. The body is big, and the palate follows the nose, but here the whisky loses its balance and becomes aggressively spicy. The finish is initially hot, but after it descends, this turns into the best part of this dram, leaving your mouth and throat pleasantly coated with iodine/licorice notes.
This whisky fares far better with a generous pouring of spring water, and at a 50/50 ratio, the palate is as pleasant as the finish.
82 Glenfiddich Special Reserve Single Malt Scotch, 12 years old (William Grant & Sons, Ltd., NJ) 40% abv, $27. Very pale straw in color. The nose is light and fragrant, with a cookie-like maltiness heading the aromas. The slim body yields a simple palate with cereal notes, a vague hint of pears, and little else. The finish is long but a little hot.
80 Dewar's White Label Blended Scotch (John Dewar & Sons/Bacardi U.S.A., FL) 40% abv, $20. This pale-straw-colored whisky bears a grainy nose with a somewhat perfumed backdrop. The body is light, and the palate is somewhat astringent, with musty grain notes playing off somewhat medicinal flavors. These are not, though, the pleasant medicinal flavors found in some Islay whiskies. The finish is short and somewhat hot.
86 Alizé VSOP Cognac (Kobrand Importers, NY) 40% abv, $50. This medium-amber brandy bears a dryish nose with notes of lemon zest, nutmeg and cinnamon. The body is medium, and the palate is dry and nicely spiced with nutty notes dancing on top of a peppery backdrop. The finish is dry, spicy and long. Best Buy.
82 Alizé VS Cognac (Kobrand Importers, NY) 40% abv, $35. Walnut brown in color; the nose is sweet and grapey, with a backdrop of raisins. The body is medium and silky, and the palate follows the nose, although here the grapeyness takes a backseat while the raisin sweetness rides up front. The finish is spicier than we expected, and very long.
This bottling is too sweet and lacks the necessary complexity for a higher rating, but the brandy works very well as a cocktail ingredient. We made marvelous Sidecars using two ounces of Cognac and half an ounce each of triple sec and fresh lemon juice.
80 Paul Masson Grande Amber VS Brandy, 3 years old (Canandaigua Wine Company, NY) 40% abv, $11. Light amber in color. The nose on this brandy is intially very dry and vegetal, but after a while some fruity aromas—mainly apricot—appear. The body is medium and buttery, and the palate tastes more of butterscotch than any other flavor we could distinguish here. The finish is short.
88Chartreuse (green)(Frederick Wildman and Sons, NY/Chartreuse Diffusion, France) 55% adv, $40. Pale lime green in color. The nose is sweet with honey, and backed by herbal notes such as sage, thyme and rosemary. The body is thick and syrupy, and the palate follows the nose, though the herbal complexity is very hard to decipher here. The finish is smooth and fairly long.