Suntory Kakubin Black Label (Suntory 43)

Suntory-Kakubin-BlackLabel-suntory-43

Suntory Kakubin Black Label (Suntory 43)

Type: Japanese Whisky
Category: Blended Whisky
Age: N/A
ABV: 43%

This is the second whisky featured on the Mission Impossible: Taiwan Midnight Whisky Run series.

I was under the impression that this would be an upgrade from the Suntory Yellow Label but that didn’t hold true.

For starters, it’s not nearly as nice on the nose.

The lemon ammonia smell reminded me of a temporary summer job that I held as a custodian. 

It’s light-bodied (as expected) but compared with the Yellow Label there isn’t a whole lot of flavorful notes present.

The Suntory Black Label does have one interesting thing going for it– an unusual finish.

electric-fly-swatter

I feel your pain my insect friend

It gives you a high-voltage jolt on the tongue and then quickly scampers away.

It’s like licking an electric fly swatter.

Suntory Kakubin Black Label Tasting Notes

Nose: Lemon, Ammonia, Feint Toffee
Palate:  Pipe tobacco, malt, oak
Finish:  Short jarring buzz with a tinge of sherry

Score 71 / 100

McAdams Canadian Whisky

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McAdams Rye Whisky

Distillery: Unknown (Independent Bottler)
Expression: McAdams Rye Whisky
Category: Blended
Region: Canada
ABV: 40 %

At the end of a long day, I needed a drink.

And at NT$160 for a 200ml bottle, I figured McAdams was worth a gander.

McAdams is like a watered down version of Jameson, which is on the light side to begin with.

This whiskey is unusual in that it is devoid of tasting notes.

If the Buddha were reincarnated as a boozehound he might enjoy this dram as it is a journey into emptiness.

Taking a sip of this whisky is a bit like walking down an elevator shaft.

You get some first-aid-kit iodine on the nostrils …… then boom ….. the rug is cut out from under you.

Before you smash into the pavement below,  you’re hit with an ever so slight finish that quickly fades into oblivion.

Call me crazy, but if you put your ear to the glencairn glass, you might even hear an apology from this timid dram.

The low cost and absence of flavor make this a prime candidate for simple mixed drinks.

But … eh …. not so great for sipping.

McAdams Rye Whisky Tasting Notes

Nose: Band-aids, Caramel, Dried green apple, an old man’s lawn
Palate: Remarkably empty with a dash of white pepper and some wheat.
Finish: Short and docile finish with an ultra-mild sting (as potent as watered-down mouthwash)

73/100

PS: After a bit more research, we’ve discovered that this incarnation of McAdams is actually bottled in Taiwan and sold EXCLUSIVELY in the Taiwanese market. Can’t say I’m all that surprised, but I do feel a tad hoodwinked by the marketing.

One impostor begets another, so it seems fitting that as retribution ANYONE involved in the production or distribution of McAdams MUST watch this video below in its entirety. 

Now we’re even!

Mission Impossible: Taiwan 200 ml Midnight Whisky Run (Intro)

Taipei Whisky Selection from 7-11

200 ml Whisky Selection at a Taiwanese 7-11

 

I rarely receive any mail at my abode in the beautiful island of Formosa.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when I heard the sound of a large manila envelope slid under my door.

Things got a whole lot more interesting when I slashed the top open with my handy Opinel knife and carefully read the content of the  letter.

classified

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Attention: Whisky Drinker
Place: Taipei, Taiwan
Time: 10:37PM

Good Evening Mr. Blackler,

As you very well know, Taiwan is the 3rd largest whisky consumer (per capita) in the world, accounting for roughly 41% of all whisky sales in Asia. It’s no secret that you can find any essentially any Scotch you want there at a reasonable price.

However there is a massive, typhoon-sized problem brewing as we speak. Hordes of weary employees are working  into the wee hours of the night, long past the hour when liquor stores are open. For cheap booze they are turning to Family Mart and 7-11.

There they can buy a wide selection of 200ml whisky bottles (about 6.75 ounces) which range in price from NT$135 to NT$185 ( US$4.50 to US$6.15).

The standard options are:

Mr. Blackler your mission, if you decide to accept it, is to infiltrate the supply line and carefully remove samples of the aforementioned brands from the shelves. Next, you’re required to smuggle them to a nearby safe house and pour yourself some very large drams as you write some painstakingly detailed reviews.

The taste buds of foreign businessman, local construction workers, and hordes of semi-employed English teachers lie in your hands.

Of course if you or any other member of your Rock Star team should be caught or killed, we will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

Good luck and God Speed!

As usual, this page will decompose one minute after you’ve scrolled to the bottom of the page.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Surprise … surprise ….. I decided to take the challenge.

DAY ONE — McAdams Rye Whisky

Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky Review

A picture of Tap 357 Whisky bottle

Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky Review

Distillery: Tap 357
Expression:
Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky
Category
: Blended whisky (A mix of 3, 5, and 7 year old whiskies (hence the name 357)
Region: Western Canada
ABV: 40.5%
Aside from politeness and the act of jerseying some dickhead and smashing him in the face there are few things more Canadian than rye whisky and maple syrup.

jerseyed

I’ll give you 357 Taps in your fucking face punk!

As a fan of some of the spicy / sweet bourbons I was anxious to uncork this puppy and see how it would compete.

The best thing about a dram of Tap 357 is the nose.

I swear it smells like a fresh plate of buttery flapjacks is wafting out of your Glencairn glass.

However, Tap 357 has a few limitations that you should know about up front. The distillers added some caramel coloring to enhance the look of the whisky which takes away from the taste. Also, the maple syrup flavor doesn’t come from it being aged in maple casks.

The syrup is added at the end of the maturation process and left in for an “additional period” of time which is unspecified.

Not all is lost though.

The end result is a whisky that is certainly drinkable but overly simple.

You’re just getting some harsh rye and maple syrup.

That’s it folks, the show is over.

At the end of the day, Tap 357 feels like a novelty act that gets a bit boring after a few sips.

On the bright side, the maple could add some interesting twist to some cocktails as a mixer.

They have a few recipes up  on their website but I think with a little experimentation and some amaro / apertifs  you can probably develop some better ones on your own.

Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky Tasting Notes

Nose: Hot buttered flapjacks
Palate: Stout harsh rye sweetened with maple syrup. Kicks like a mule for a paltry 40.5%
Finish: A lingering hot finish that isn’t all too pleasant.

Score 71 / 100

To “E” or Not to “E”? Are You Drinking Whisky or Whiskey Tonight?

I’m thoroughly convinced that the first  whiskeys producers had a secret, side agenda:

To fuck with your mind.

Making the world’s finest spirit just wasn’t enough for them.

They decided to set little booby traps to confuse the aspiring whisky aficionado at every step of the way.

The founders the old distilleries  are probably laughing their asses off at some grand whisky bar in the sky knowing that 99% of the world’s English-speaking population (most native speakers included) are mispronouncing the name of the brands they created.

To hear the correct pronunciations of Scotches, give this handy audio resource a go.

If you’re just starting your whiskey journey, I’m betting you got a handful of those wrong.

Next we have tasting terminology.

The volume of snobby and obscure vernacular used at most tasting sessions is enough to make your head spin.

And for one final trick of mind-fuckery, the whisky gods decided to mess with the most basic and simplest thing.

The spelling of the word whisky (or whiskey) itself.

Sometimes it’s “whiskey” with an “e”.

Other times, the “e” is conspicuously absent and it’s “whisky.”

To put this in perspective, you won’t find “eggs” and “egges” while shopping at your local supermarket.

There’s no such thing as an “apple” and an “appl”.

But browse around in any liquor shop and you’ll find lots of plenty of whisky and lots of whiskey too.

So what gives?

From the Beginning

Whether it’s whisky or whiskey, we’re referring to a spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grains.

In Latin, the term for distilled alcohol is aqua vitae which translated into the water of life.

In Gaelic (Ireland) this was translated to uisce beatha and in Scottish Gaelic: uisge beatha.

If you try to pronounce these words in English it sounds like “ooze-kuh-bee” which was anglicized to whisky.

For many, many years, the spelling “whisky” was used across the board.

But in the late 1870s the quality of Scotch took a big hit when Scottish distilleries transitioned to distilling their whisky in column (or Coffey) stills.

The Irish shunned this approach and decided to stick to their traditional pot-still approach.

As a result, SOME Irish distillers (not all as it is often reported) decided to add an “E” to distinguish their “higher quality” spirit from Scottish produced whisky.

Many American bourbon distillers decided to follow the same route.

In the 20th century, the tides turned and the Irish whiskey industry hit rock bottom due to some poor financial decisions.

In the end, all but three of Ireland’s distilleries declared bankruptcy and were forced to close up shop.

 It just so happens that the three who made the cut where all spelling it “whiskey” and they decided to keep it that way.

Are there any rules for deciding whether it’s whisky or whiskey?

In a nutshell, it’s usually spelled “whiskey if it’s made in:

  • Ireland

  • The U.S.

And it’s “whisky if it’s made in:

  • Scotland
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • or anywhere else

But hold your horses …..

Surprise, surprise …… There are some EXCEPTIONS !!!!

In the U.S., two distillers, Maker’s Mark and George Dickel, decided to drop the “e” from their whiskey.

This likely had something to do with the founders’ Scottish ancestry or their admiration for fine Scotch.

And in Germany, there are 23 distilleries with some choosing whisky whereas others went with whiskey.

But at the end of the day, how much does it really matter?

Whether it’s whisky or whiskey, just pour yourself a tall glass, kick back, and enjoy the taste.

Penderyn Madeira Finish

 

Penderyn - Madeira-cask

Penderyn Madeira Finish Review

Distillery: Penderyn
Expression: Madeira Finish
Category: Single Malt
Region: PenderynCynon Valley, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales
ABV: 46%

This delightful dram was matured in bourbon barrels and finished in Madeira casks. If you drank it without any price indication, you could easily mistake it for a more pricey whisky. To top it all off, at 46% it’s a bit stronger than your run-of-the-mill, entry-level single malt.

Penderyn Madeira Finish Tasting Notes

Nose: White sesame, cumin, plum, raisin
Palate: Sherry. Nice interplay of sweet/dryness
Finish: Short and shy finish. Vanilla with a tad of heat. Leaves you clamoring for a bit more.

Score 82 / 100

Hellyers Road Distillery Original Review

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Hellyers Road Distillery Original Whisky

Distillery: Hellyers Road Distillery
Expression: Original (5 years)
Category: Single Malt Whisky
Region: Tasmania, Australia
ABV: 46.2%

When I came across a bottle of Hellyers Road in Taiwan at Jason’s Supermarket I was immediately intrigued.

It was the first whisky I had ever seen from Tasmanian, but other than that, I couldn’t find too much information on it.

Apparently even the legendary dram drinking Jim Murray hadn’t gotten his mitts on it because there was no rating for Hellyers in his Whisky Bible.

Nonetheless, I decided to roll the dice and pick up a bottle.

At home, I took out an ole’ Glencairn glass and poured myself a wee dram.

And then another.

and another.

About a quarter of a way through the bottle it was obvious that I had stumbled across a real winner.

Hellyers is made from Tasmanian barley and it delivers the ultimate cereal whisky experience like no other.

There’s nothing overpowering here, but every nut, berry, bushel of wheat and honey drop does exactly what it’s supposed to–they work in unison to please the palate.

It’s like a Greek goddess pouring a goblet of golden nectar down your gullet.

There are plenty of  US$200 bottles of Scotch that can’t hold a candle to this whisky.

Fantastic stuff.

Epilogue

The next day, I went back to Jason’s and picked up another three bottles.

Better safe than sorry.

Hellyers Road Distillery Original Whisky Tasting Notes

Nose:  Delicate grains, mild citrus
Palate:  A mouthful of warm wheat cereal followed by honey.
Finish:  Wide, expansive, clean, pure, and comfortable.

Score 87 / 100

Ballantine’s 12 Review

Ballantines-12yr-Spc-Rsrv-750ml

Ballantine’s 12 Review

Distillery:  Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky Distillery
Expression: Ballantine’s 12
Category: Blended Scotch
ABV
: 40%

Ballantine’s 12 has some fans out there. Many consider it to be a good value whisky.

But at the end of the day I felt it ended up being a rather unexceptional dram—light-bodied, and lacking in flavor.

However don’t write the Ballantine’s brand off after tasting this one.

Ballantine’s older expressions (the 17, 21, and 30) are phenomenal and packed with flavor-filled goodness.

But when it comes to this plain Jane, use it for mixing or better yet, skip it altogether.

Ballantine’s 12 Tasting Notes

Color: Pale Gold
Nose: smoke, lemon rind, cask smoke, floral
Palate: rotten sherry, spice, honey, sherry, tannin-dryness
Finish: Toffee and spice. Conflicted short finish that leads to nowhere.

Score: 74 / 100

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

woodfordReserve

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Review

Distillery: Woodford Reserve Distillery
Expression:
Distiller’s Select
Category
: Bourbon
Region: Kentucky, USA
ABV: 45%

Woodford prides itself on producing “craft bourbon.” And after a few sips of their product, it is evident they’re doing some right to give their product its refreshing and unique taste.

Handcrafted in small batches, Woodford Reserve contains 18% rye, which is rather high for most bourbons and really gives it a feisty charge.

Woodford is also the only bourbon (at least that we know of) that uses copper pot stills imported directly from Scotland and that results in adding some really terrific distinct flavors to this bourbon.

For the final step, it’s aged in charred, white-oak barrels.

As far as bourbons go Woodford Reserve near the TOP of my list.

I’ve gotta say it really toots my whistle every step of the way.

The smooth rounded-glass bottle is a work of art, down to the brilliantly-full popping sound you hear every time you uncork the bottle.

The nose smells so damn good that I’m tempted to dab a bit on my wrists as cologne.

And the balance of chocolate, butterscotch, spice, and oak is near perfection.

If you’re a Scotch fan looking to venture into new territory, let this first-rate whiskey be your gateway drug to the wonderful world of bourbon.

The only thing that keeps this from reaching the absolute upper-echelon of bourbons (William Larue Weller for example) is that this Woodford expression is a tad light in terms of its mouthfeel.

But otherwise, it’s damn near perfect and a steal of a deal for the price.

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Tasting Notes

Nose: banana bread, cocoa powder, Almond Joy bar (Coconut), butterscotch, sweet pear
Palate: chocolate, walnut, vanilla, toffee, green apple, cherry, cinnamon
Finish: Long, smooth, crisp clean finish that is ultra-satisfying.

Score 88/ 100

Connemara Cask Strength Review

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Connemara Cask Strength Review

Distillery: Cooley Distillery
Expression: Cask Strength Peated Single Malt
Category: Single Malt (Yes it is! No misprint)

Region:
Ireland
ABV: 57.9
%

 

At 57.9% this powerful peat monster isn’t your typical Irish whiskey that amuses you with lighthearted fruity limericks and tickles your senses with mild spices.

Oh, no, no, no ….

Connemara Cask Strength is an uncontrollable  juggernaut that burns down your palate with the blaze of an Über-Islay Scotch and then reincarnates your soul in the middle of a chocolate-barley-hazelnut wonderland.

Typically, I’m all for adding a bit of water to high-proof whiskeys to take reduce the alcohol burn and detect some hidden notes.

But in this case, I prefer to unleash the Connemara on my taste buds full-on, letting the demon run rampant like a prime Genghis Khan, destroying everything in its path before giving way to an eloquent smoothness.

If you’re an Islay fan hunt down a bottle of this stuff, crack it open in the aisle of the liquor, and watch as the heavens split open and the angels start dancing on your taste buds when you take your first sip.

Connemara Cask Strength Tasting Notes

Nose: Lemon, Sawdust, Light peat
Palate: Agressive peat, malted cereal, chocolate, barley, spice
Finish: Peat gives way to a delectable malted, burnt-hazelnut  long-lasting and quite memorable finish

93/100

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