Monday, March 12, 2018

High West Bourye Timeline and 2018 Review

Bourye is a blend of bourbons and ryes which High West has sourced form other distilleries over the years. I often see questions and misinformation about the provenance of each iteration so using various sources, I've put together a timeline of the batches.
  • 10-year-old straight bourbon; 75% corn, 15% rye, 10% barley malt; unknown
  • 12-year-old straight rye; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 16-year-old straight rye; 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% malt; Barton, KY
Source: Back Label
2010, 2011
  • 10-year-old straight bourbon; 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% barley malt; Four Roses, KY
  • 12-year-old straight rye; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 16-year-old straight rye; 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% malt; Barton, KY
Bourye went on a hiatus for a few years only to be resurrected in 2015 with yet another new blend and every year since we've seen a new incarnation. All of the remaining was sourced from
  • 9-year-old straight bourbon; 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 10-year-old straight rye; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 16-year-old straight rye; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 16-year-old straight rye; 80% rye, 10% corn, 10% malt; Barton, KY
  • 9-year-old straight bourbon; 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 13-year-old straight rye whiskey; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 17-year-old straight rye whiskey; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • A blend of straight bourbon and rye whiskeys aged from 10 to 14 years.
  • straight rye; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • straight rye; 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • straight bourbon; 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt; MGP, IN; 
  • 14-year-old straight rye; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 13-year-old straight rye; 95% rye, 5% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 12-year-old straight bourbon; 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 11-year-old straight bourbon; 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt; MGP, IN
  • 11-year-old straight bourbon; 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% barley malt; MGP, IN
It's an interesting story over time. Early on it was Four Roses bourbon, MGP rye, and Barton rye; then MGP bourbon, MGP rye, and Barton rye; and now it's all MGP bourbon and rye. 
Historically, I've loved this blend as evidenced by my reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017. The whiskeys at play are of great pedigree, have respectable specs, and High West is known at being masterful blenders. Let's see if the trend continues this time around.

High West Bourye 2018

bottleNo Age Statement; 46% ABV; $75; Batch 17L19 (bottled December 2017)
Nose: Very woody and very sweet with a slight menthol twinge. Upfront is a lot of your typical woody bourbon sweets but towards the end it is more like spicy bubble gum sweets I get with ryes. There's a lot of wood influence here.
Taste: Tastes like the nose. There is a hefty dose of woody caramel sweets initially. The finish is spicy and sweet with cracked pepper, cinnamon gum, and some older wood notes. The older wood notes are giving it some dark cocao flavor that linger slightly bitter. 
Thoughts: Like previous iterations, it's a nice blend of wood, sweet, and some spice with plenty of depth. Having said that, for whatever reason, it's just not doing quite as much for me this time around. I don't even know if it's not as exciting as previous batches or I just have higher standards these days. I don't factor value into my reviews but I can't help but think at the price here, I could get a Four Roses private select and have money left over, so maybe I will start skipping these in the future. 
Rating: B
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Amrut Spectrum 004 Review

Here's a review I did as part of the /r/worldwhisky March community review. I don't know a lot about Amrut other than they are based in India and known for their malt whiskeys. I don't know everything about their climate but looking at their average temperatures month to month it seems to be a rather hot environment so I assume that has a dramatic effect on their aging process. I previously reviewed their Portonova and quite liked it a lot - enough so that I recently bought a bottle even at the high asking price of around $140.
There have been several batches of Spectrum and from what gather, all of them have had different barrel maturations. Today we have 004, which the Amrut website describes as follows:
To make the Spectrum 004, a two part maturation technique has been employed, the first being maturation of New Make spirit in ex-Bourbon casks followed by transferring the aged spirit into the custom barrels. The custom barrels are made with 4 different kinds of staves , new American Oak with Char level 3, new French Oak with light toasting, ex-Olorosso staves and ex-PX Sherry staves. The aforementioned barrel has equal proportions of all four kinds of staves arranged in a one-after-the-other manner lending their own characteristics and complexities to the malt coming into its own on the nose and the palate.
bottleNo Age Statement; 50% ABV; thanks to /u/washeewashee for the sample (image taken from Amrut's website)
Nose: Raisins, cereal grains, and honey - it is definitely a malt and there is definitely some sherry influence. There is also a little bit of an off phenolic note like charcoal. It breaths kind of warm, I might have guessed higher than 50%.
Taste: Honey coated raisin cereal up front, fruit notes like prunes and figs in the middle, dry charred wood and more charcoal phenol notes in the end. There is plenty of wood influence driving all that flavor. It's rich and packs a lot of density for only being 50% ABV.
Thoughts: I had no idea what to expect here but I like it. Unlike some other whiskeys I've had that were aged in extreme climates, there aren't a lot of really off funky notes that I would normally associate with rapid aging. When it comes to malts my preferences always lie with the more heavily sherried and preferably cask strength whiskeys but this has enough wood and sherry influence to keep me interested. My only real complaint is the char notes seemed a little heavy handed - I guess I am not quite used to freshly charred oak being at play in most of the malts I've tried.
Rating: B
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof (63.75%, Batch 5, 2016)

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof is the uncut and unfiltered offering in the E.H. Taylor line from Buffalo Trace Distillery which has it as the only Taylor that is not bottled in bond at 100 proof. It's a limited edition that in the last few years seems to be released annually in the summer. As with any limited bourbon these days, these were a lot easier for me to obtain five years ago but now I think these barely hit the shelves here in Nashville so I was only able to acquire this through luck by seeing it behind the counter in a random store. I've previously reviewed a couple of earlier iterations of this bottle, batch 2 from 2013 and batch 3 from 2014. My main takeaway after the 2014 review was that while I really liked it, I felt the quality of Stagg Jr had finally normalized to the point where it was a better/cheaper/easier to find product than this and that's my presumption going into this review. 

No Age Statement; 63.75% ABV; $80
Nose: The ethanol is very forward - more scorching than I expected for the proof. It's hard to pull out anything under the alcohol but there is some woody furniture polish and a little rye spice bite. I get kind of a peachy stone fruit note in the Taylor Small Batch and am getting remnants of that here as well.
Taste: A lot more approachable than the nose. There are your typical bourbon wood sugar notes of caramel and vanilla but the sweetness is very lush. There is a good amount of charred oak in the middle and a slight rye spice twinge in the finish. It's as rich and bold as you'd expect for the proof but the heat is well tamed and it's very drinkable. 
Thoughts: I'm gonna flip flop a little here and say this is as good as or better than most of the Stagg Jr batches I've had. It's missing that prominent cherry note that Staff Jr brings to the table and it's not quite the oak laden proof bomb that is Elijah Craig Barrel Proof but this is really solid. It's less unique than either of those and more just a heavy proofed version of a straight up, classic bourbon. The semi obtainable, high proof bourbon market has gotten a bit more crowded these days and the winner there is still Elijah Craig both in quality and price but if you can find a bottle of this, it's a solid buy.
Rating: B+ / B
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2017 Review

Here we have the annual limited edition release from my favorite distillery, Four Roses. Past releases of this have been excellent and some like the 2013 and 2015 are up there with my all time favorites. In 2017 we were lucky in that we saw two limited edition small batches, the previous one being the Al Young 50th Anniversary. While I thought it was good, it had some faults that made it hard to swallow the $150 price tag considering there are some private selection single barrels that I've enjoyed more that will run you about 1/3 of the cost. And that's been my only real complaint about the limited edition products from Four Roses lately — it wasn't too long ago that you didn't pay much of a premium for them but times have most certainly changed. 
The blend for this release is 
  • 15 year OESK
  • 13 year OESK
  • 12 year OESV
I'm a huge fan of all those recipes so I am going in with high hopes here.
bottleNo Age Statement; 54% ABV; $125; Bottle 6742 of 10896
Nose: Sweet caramel, soft spice, red fruits/berries, and hefty dose of oak. Smells like classic, well aged Four Roses.
Taste: All of the same from the nose. Lots of lush caramel and other oak derived sweets up front, hefty dose of oak in the middle, and a wave of spicy red berries and slightly port wine like notes in the finish. As the red fruit notes recede, the spice starts to come on in the form of dry baking spice and/or cinnamon powder.
Thoughts: Classic, no bullshit, excellent Four Roses. I've loved this bottle from the moment I've opened and in a lot of ways it reminds me of the 2015 LE small batch which is up there with the best of the best for me. Having just recently tried them side by side on a recent trip to Four Roses while picking out barrels with a preferred local store, it does fall a little short of that one. Comparison is the thief of joy though so in this moment, this is a truly remarkable bourbon that showcases a distinctive profile that only Four Roses can deliver — a sweet, woody, spicy, red fruit forward bourbon. 
It's really hard for me to keep up with all of the limited edition releases these days — I completely missed out on any of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and probably 75% of the other taterbait releases but this is the best whiskey I've had from 2017 and I am completely content with that.
Rating: A- / A
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Old Ezra 101 Review

Old Ezra 7 year is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon released by Luxco. Though the front label says "DISTILLED & AGED IN KENTUCKY BY EZRA BROOKS DISTILLING LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY", don't believe that for one second since there was no Ezra Brooks distillery seven years ago. Most credible sources have this as being sourced from Heaven Hill and like many Heaven Hill bourbons this is also charcoal filtered. Due to some positive reviews I'd read and that it's likely age stated highish proof Heaven Hill bourbon at a low price, I figured it was worth a shot as potential good and cheap daily sipper. 
Before we get into the review though, a curious story. At some point during the few weeks I spent with this bottle, I happened to notice this verbiage on the back label.
Uh, wut? I do what any enraged whiskey nerd does and make a post in a whiskey group to the effect of can you believe this shit. Visceral rabbling immediately ensues more or less that the TTB is worthless and yeah that's definitely not a KY straight bourbon if coloring has been added, shame on the TTB and Luxco. But then someone asks about the TTB label so I start doing some digging. It took some time but eventually I deduced that there are a lot of flavored products that are put out under the Ezra Brooks line and the TTB label for this product doesn't match the one that's on the back of my bottle. Though I never found an exact match for the SKU, I came to the conclusion that somehow there was a bottling line mishap and one of Ezra Brook's other back labels like this one ended up on my bottle. 
Crisis averted, pitchforks lowered, bourbon can again be consumed at ease.
Aged 7 years; 50.5% ABV; $20
Nose: Rye menthol spice, decent amount of oak, about the level of caramel/vanilla sweets you'd expect for a 7 year old bourbon. 
Taste: Typical caramel/vanilla/honey sweets you get in a middle aged bourbon. It's rather forward on the sweets in the front and middle palate, much like creme brûlée. The finish has a good bit of rye spiciness that's inline with Heaven Hill's standard rye bourbon mash products. 
Thoughts: Pretty decent and above what I consider an average of something like Maker's Mark. Given the price, it's a good deal and that makes it a good candidate for a good daily driver. For day to day sipping, I think this is easy and pleasant to drink as it's a nice classic bourbon. Having said that, I don't know if it's as good as my current gold standard for a universally versatile daily bourbon which is Wild Turkey 101. This bottle is probably more refined than WT101 with a higher overall age but it's hard to for me to say this is better than the bold, spice forward profile that WT101 brings to the table even if it drinks a little younger.
Rating: C+ / B-
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Maker's Mark Private Select Gift Shop 2017 Review

I recently took a trip from Nashville up to Louisville and decided to slightly detour over to Loretto because they currently have a Dale Chihuly exhibit on the grounds. Maker's Mark is my favorite tour in Kentucky, mainly because the grounds are so well catered to visitors and I picked the perfect time of year because the Fall colors were peaking (pictures). As part of the tour you get to taste a private select chosen by the Maker's Mark staff. I personally hate Maker's 46 (review) and didn't much care for the very first gift shop only cask strength version they released (review) but I was surprised by the one I tasted on the tour. I liked it enough that my vacation mode wallet was okay with forking over the somewhat steep asking price. For reference, the staves on this are 2x Baked American Pure 2, 2x Seared French Cuvée, 2x Maker's 46, and 4x Roasted French Mocha.
No Age Statement; 55.1% ABV; $80
Nose: Cinnamon red hot candies, dark cocoa, some corn funk, and quite a bit of ethanol. It has the wood influence you'd expect from a ~6 year old bourbon.
Taste: More corn than the nose but the odd funk is gone. The mid and back palate are a wave of spicy cinnamon red hot candies. The wood depth is pretty nice with the different stave chars adding some nice complexity. There are hints of the green wood / pine note that make me completely hate the regular Maker's 46 but it seems to be getting masked by chocolate cocoa notes rather well. The ethanol influence is a lot more settled than the nose and though it might be amplifying the spice notes, the increased proof seems to be ramping up all the nice flavors rather than just cranking up the heat. 
Thoughts: Given my previous experience with Maker's 46 and the original Maker's 46 cask strength, I was really surprised how much I like this. Granted, it's a low bar but I think this is the best Maker's product I've ever had. It tastes more full than the standard Maker's thanks to the proof and more mature than the cask strength version which I think is good but is slanted towards a younger profile. It's a nice blend of cinnamon, corn, and dark chocolate notes with a good amount of proof to back it up. The only real downside here is the asking price is kinda high but what isn't in the world of bourbon these days.
Rating: B
For reference, on my current scale, Maker's CS would be about a B-, standard Maker's a C, and most modern single barrel Old Weller Antiques would be in the B- to B range.
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon Review

Bulleit is a non distiller producer who sources Kentucky bourbon and Indiana rye. The current producer of their bourbon is unknown but up until a couple of years ago, Four Roses was the primary contract distiller. There's a lot of theories about the makeup of their bourbon currently on the shelves - some have it being from a different yeast than one of Four Roses five strains (an E yeast) and some have it as just a blend of Four Roses OE and OB mashes. My guess is it's probably both of those but the wildcard element is it's also possible that Bulleit was sourcing from other distilleries and blending for the final product so nobody really knows but Diageo. All we know is it's a Kentucky straight bourbon with a high rye mashbill. 

Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon

Aged 10 years; 45.6% ABV; $38
Nose: Cotton candy, red fruit sweets, some rye spice bite. It breathes hotter than I would expect for about 90 proof but a pretty decent nose.
Taste: Caramel, red fruits, a little banana, honey, and a pretty good dose of oak. It's definitely high rye as there are some cinnamon and baking spices too. It's a little watery for my tastes though I think my pendulum has swung back into the barrel proof camp lately.
Thoughts: This isn't bad at all. It's got some Four Roses like characteristics, plenty of wood depth, and is priced reasonably well. It drinks like a good daily sipper though it would be a lot better at 100 proof as my main complaint is it's a bit thin. For my money, Four Roses single barrel is still a better product and leads me back to what I always think when I drink Bulleit is that it should just be called "Three Roses".
Rating: C+ / B-
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Bourbon Drinker's Take on Armagnac, Part 4: The L’Encantada Edition. 1974 Le Sable, 1996 Lous Pibous #187, 1996 Lous Pibous #188, and 1993 Lous Pibous #124 Reviews

A recap for those that missed part 1, part 2, and part 3: I'm well versed in the world of bourbon but have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to Armagnac. What follows are some raw notes from Armagnacs I've tried lately. While most of the ones I've tried up to this point were tasted with zero knowledge of backstory or supposed quality, I had actually heard really good things about L’Encantada and was aware some folks I know were involved in selecting the "Lous Pibous" casks. 


L’Encantada 1974 42 year “Le Sable” Bas Armagnac, 40.1%

Smells like a really old, super sweet, funky grapey whiskey. Lots of brown sugar and prunes. The taste is a lot more of the same. Old funky burnt caramel, honey, and brown sugar covered raisins. There is some drying wood as well but it's a lot of sweet and purple fruits. I really like that profile personally as I am sweets junkie. My only complaint is with the lowish proof the flavors that are there are a little thin. Rating: B

L'Encantada "Lous Pibous" 1996 20 year Bas Armagnac #188 53.6%

The nose is classic flavors of brown sugar and raisins. It is very sweet forward and packs quite a wallop given the high ABV. The taste is a lot more of the same: honey, sweet brown sugar, raisins, and dark cocoa. There is also some spice bite that I am not sure if is really a spice note or just the ethanol from the high ABV. The first time I had this it really threw me off as I'd never had an Armagnac at this high ABV. Over time it has really grown on me as I know what to expect going in plus I think it has mellowed out a bit as it's been exposed to air in the bottle. It's definitely a bruiser of a dram for an Armagnac but I am a big fan of how intense it is. Rating: A-

L'Encantada "Lous Pibous" 1996 Bas Armagnac 20 year Barrel #187 54.9%

Drinks easy for 57% but flavor-wise it's very impactful with lots of rich grape, wood, and brown sugar. It's a sweet forward sugar coated raisin bomb up front with some spicy tingle on the finish, mostly likely from the highish proof. A classic middle to upper aged Armagnac profile. While not as bold as my memory of the 188, it's still damn good. These high proof older Armagnacs are really something else. Rating: A

L'Encantada "Lous Pibous" Bas Armagnac 1993 23 year Barrel #124 52.5%

Another grapey, woody, sweet, sugar coated raisin bomb. This one doesn't pack quite the wallop of the 187 or 188 and that's not surprising given the proof. While I enjoy these high proof bruisers I actually feel kind of weird about them as I think the proof detracts from them a little bit. To me, this one drinks closer to the easy drinking but super rich and sweet profile I prefer with some weird funky old flavors. Brown sugar, funky old grapes, old wood, and a hefty proof but not so much that you burn your palate. Those notes are there in the 188 and 187 but they are just a tad too hot such that the funkier elements get a little lost. This one is the nicest balance of proof towards weirdo flavors I've found. Simply wonderful. Rating: A / A+

Thoughts: These L'Encantadas are definitely the best Armagnacs I've ever had. As a bourbon guy who has tried some heavily hyped and rare whiskies, I'll go so far as say these up there with the best spirits I've ever tasted. Maybe this just the novelty of a new spirit for me but I find the crave-ability aspect of these off the charts. I find myself thinking about these profiles far more than most bourbons I have on my shelf today. 
But now some real talk. I started this adventure because on the surface, Armagnac looked like a market with great values and easier access than the shitstorm that is allocated bourbon these days. Well, so much for that. The three amazing barrels I reviewed here today were all part of some private group picks with only a few bottles making their way to retail at K&L and even then I believe it was only one of the casks. While they were priced at retail well, the secret is out and there's now a secondary fever for them that is approaching the ridiculousness that is allocated bourbon so don't plan on finding these. I have no idea if there will ever be more of them in the future but expect a crazed rat race if that happens. Granted, there are plenty of options other than private L'Encantada casks out there but the other major hinderance I've found is shipping. K&L is largely one of the best sources for great Armagnac but now they no longer ship outside of California. There are a few stores in New York that have some great selections but the list of states they ship to is pretty small and excludes my state. My local distributors do carry a few selections but most things older than 10 years end up retailing nearly double what K&L charges.
Get into Armagnac they said. It will be easy they said. It's cheap they said. Huh, yeah, cool story bro. 
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Bourbon Drinker's Take on Armagnac, Part 3. Domaine de Jean-Bon 28yr, Chateau de la Grangerie 2001 14yr, Domaine de Baraillon 1988 28yr, Baraillon 1987 29yr

A recap for those that missed part 1 and part 2: I'm well versed in the world of bourbon but have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to Armagnac. What follows are some raw notes from Armagnacs I've tried lately - some were samples, some where bottle splits, and most were drank with zero knowledge of backstory or supposed quality. 

Domaine de Baraillon 1988 28 year Folle Blanche, 46%

The nose is very nice - I can already tell this is in my wheelhouse. It smells old and kinda funky but in a great way. Dark sugars, smoked meats, leather. The taste is more of those same notes with a lot of added caramel sweetness. Dark sugar soaked dates, plums, old oak, wood varnish. It's rich and complex with a wide range of sweets, oak depth, and oddball funk notes. This probably isn't for everyone but I love it. Rating: B+

Baraillon 1987 29 year 43%

The nose and taste are lots of classic old Armagnac flavors that you'd expect in this age range but a bit more oak forward. The oak slightly overpowers some of the rich sugary date/grape/raisin flavors I tend towards. It's also slightly spicy, perhaps it's wood spice? It's easy to drink and not as thin as expected for 43%. Overall, it's pretty great but loses points for being almost over-oaked and not as deep in sweet flavors as my favorites.  Rating: B

Chateau de la Grangerie 2001 14 year K&L Exclusive Armagnac, 45%

Initial getting a familiar but surprising flavor - it’s some kind of fruit or berry. Something tropical perhaps? It drinks pretty warm and is hotter than I expected for 45% but not in a bad way - the heat is pretty nice actually. The finish lasts quite a while. It’s not as wood heavy as I prefer but it is tasty. I did get a slightly soapy note in the finish, I have to wonder if that was the sample bottle. The distinct fruit note here is driving me insane trying to place it. I want to say it’s more like some kind of grape candy or NuGrape soda now. I’d love this one more if it had more wood depth as it’s a little light on the hyper aged Armagnac profile that I gravitate towards.  Rating: C+ / B-

1987 Domaine de Jean-Bon 28 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac, 45%

The nose is fortified grapey wine notes, a bit of leather, and a spice note that is familiar but I can’t quite place. It smells fruity and sweet but somewhat thin for 45%. The taste is a lot more of the same. There are some light brown sugar notes and some wood depth but it’s really missing those old rich brown sugar raisin flavors I want. The finish is a little tannic and bitter without a lot of sweetness coming through. The alcohol presence also seems a little forward, almost like a younger craft whiskey. Considering the age and proof I expected a lot more. Rating: C+ / B-
This bottle came from a 3 bottle split I did. The other two were 1974 Domaine de Jean-Bon 41 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac and 1981 Domaine du Cardinat 34 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac. Unfortunately I didn't write down my notes on those two other than a letter grade but I had the 1974 Jean-Bon somewhere in the B range and the 1981 Cardinat in the A- to A range. The Cardinat remains one of my favorite Armagnacs to this day.

Thoughts: After a rough showing with apple and pear brandies last time around, these were a welcome change. Up next in the final installment, I saved the best for last as I'll run through four different L'Encantadas. 
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Bourbon Drinker's Take on Armagnac, Part 2. Domaine Pacory 15yr Calvados, Adrien Camut 18yr Calvados, Tom Foolery Bottled in Bond Applejack, and Chateau de Pellehaut 15yr 2001 Armagnac

A recap for those that missed part 1 - I'm well versed in the world of bourbon but have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to Armagnac. All of what follows were samples sent to me by kind friends as I try to explore the world of Armagnac and in doing so ended up with some other brandies as well. To keep things honest, I didn't do any research on any of them so what follows are raw tasting notes.

Domaine Pacory 15 year K&L Exclusive Domfrontais Calvados, 42%
I have no idea what Calvados is. First taste was very rough, lots of fruit but lots of rough bitter notes and none of the sweet forward notes I love in bourbon or Armagnac. Second taste is more of the same only now I’ve read the word pear on the sample label. Pears! Yes, definitely pears rather than apple. Getting some rough raw young wood notes or old bitter wood notes, I don’t know but the wood influence just seems off. A few sips later things are starting to level off, the odd wood notes are going away, finally getting some baked pears and sweetness but it’s dry in the end. There’s something in the finish I just don’t like about this, it doesn’t taste like anything familiar. It’s not something I would want to drink again and really didn’t want to finish the sample. Rating: D

Tom Foolery Bottled in Bond Applejack, 50%

I have no idea what Applejack means but the bottled in bond gives me some hope. The nose and taste are overwhelming apples. There are also some vitamin mineral notes very reminiscent of George Dickel though not nearly as forward as in Dickel. I'm also getting some punchy spice which I didn't expect - not sure if that's just the higher proof, the cooperage, or if the distillate actually imparted that. The apple notes are a bit much for me as they dominate the nose, taste, and finish but at least this has some good body and the spice component was welcome. Rating: C

Adrien Camut 18 year Privilege Calvados Pays d'Auge, 41%

The nose smells like stewed apples or pears, reminiscent of the spiced baked apples Cracker Barrel serves. The taste is exactly like the nose - warm spiced baked apples. The apple notes are pretty bright and it’s crazy sweet. I'm not sure if it's wood sweets or fruit sweets but overwhelmingly so. Definitely not as wood forward or old rancio as I seem to prefer. There is not much negative that I can find other than being one dimensional towards apple sweets and kinda thin. This one just seems kind boring and middle of the road but it is easy to drink. Rating: C-

Chateau de Pellehaut 2001 15 year Tenareze Armagnac, 43%

Tasting this after the apple and pear brandies, we’re back in a good place here. Tastes like a moderately aged, nice, Armagnac. It's not overly woody, not overly loaded with rancio flavors, just nice strong grape alcohol notes like brown sugar coated raisins. My only complaint is it’s a little thin and dull with fruity brown sugar sweetness being the one trick pony. Rating: B- / C+

Thoughts: I think it is safe to say I do not like apple or pear distillate so when it comes to brandy it's grapes or bust for me. Next up in the series we'll get back on the Armagnac train with some K&L exclusives and a couple Domaine de Baraillon.