Phillips Union Cherry Flavoured Whiskey (Princeton, MN, USA)

  • My Rating: [D+], not recommended.

Cherry Flavoured Whiskey – Phillips Union (Phillips Distilling Company), 35% ABV, 750ml., (Princeton, Minnesota, USA)

My thoughts:

-When I drink whiskey I like it both neat or in a classic cocktail, especially a Manhattan. Here we have a flavoured whiskey that could potentially be decent as a sipper, or perhaps enhance the Manhattan experience. In my experience, ‘flavoured’ spirits can vary from intolerable to pedestal worthy. Let’s jump into it shall we?

from the Phillips website:

“Phillips Union Whiskey is the first-ever blend of Kentucky Bourbon and Canadian Whisky. It’s a smooth, flavorful spirit, without burn or bitterness, that comes in cherry and vanilla flavor, as well as the easy-sipping original.”

  • Style: (flavoured – cherry) Whiskey
  • Taste: Liquor Depot / Edmonton
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $31.10 CAD – 750ml., October 2009
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this whiskey aficionados: no
  • Would I recommend this in a cocktail: no

Visual: (cellared for 8 years). Pours a very light honey brown, noticeably lighter in colour than other whiskeys.

Nose: medicinal sweet cough syrup cherry, background medium nasal tingly, grain alcohol notes. (lvl-7)-pungency

Attack: incoming sweetness, fruity impression

Mid-palate: (lvl-6-sweetness), cough syrup cherry,

Finish: dull caramel whiskey, medium alcohol heat, light throat warmth, residual ‘cherry’ exhale

Overall smoothness: not good, too sweet and rough in the mids.

Summary: I don’t know where they got this “natural cherry flavour” from but it surely doesn’t taste like any naturally grown cherry that I’ve ever had. The whiskey base is too weak and one-note to hold up to the overbearing cherry. You get a 70% fake cherry and 30% whiskey experience. Thus, as a sipper – No good; Ok, so how about in one of my favs, a Manhattan?

(2:1, 3 dashes Angostura, cocktail cherry garnish)

Notes: In this cocktail I used dry vermouth instead, accounting for the inherent sweetness of Phillips Union Cherry. The result? Still too much of the medicinal cherry sweetness up front, weak whiskey mids and the vermouth kicking in at the finish. The transitions between the layers are too rough, making the experience unelegant, but at least drinkable. I would rather have a higher quality bourbon/whiskey in PU Cherry’s place in order to pump up the caramel and woody notes. Thus, in a cocktail, No good. Bottom line: not recommended.

Kentucky Bourbon Round 3 – Jefferson’s Reserve VS Maker’s 46 (Champ)

It’s been a few years since I’ve done a Kentucky Bourbon battle so let’s get to it! The winner of the previous round was Maker’s 46 and now it’s up against Jefferson’s Reserve.

1) Jefferson’s Reserve (Challenger) (Hand numbered 1800/2400 bottles, batch #90) – 45.1% ABV – 750ml, (Louisville, KY, USA), $73 CAD (5/2011) @ BCLiquor Stores

  • a blend of 4 bourbons of differing ages
  • the real wood bottle stopper and rubber cork came apart after the 1st opening, 5 years after I purchased the bottle…

2) Maker’s 46 – 47% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA), $60 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • made with corn, red winter wheat, barley malt.
  • patented hand-dipped wax sealed top
  • 10 toasted French oak staves are added to the barrel and aged for 2-3 months to impart a spicier, more intense caramel and vanilla flavour profile while maintaining their signature “tip the of tongue” finish.
  • Back_To_The_Barrel_2_266


Nose: Jefferson’s Reserve (JR) has a subdued nasal tingliness with gentle toffee-caramel and rubbing alcohol. Only mildly offensive. Maker’s 46 (M46) is about 2 levels more aggressive in both nasal attack and aromatics. JR is definitely more approachable whilst you could argue that M46 has more character. Verdict = JR edges it out, the caramelness is more appealing.

Taste & Texture: One sip of JR, and then a sip of M46 – wow the difference is like night and day. JR comes off as a thin-but-smooth with toasted light caramel-oak, sweet honey, cinnamon, mild vanilla, lacking length and punch. M46 is thicker on the palate, has a bigger caramel profile whilst being more numbing and carrying more heat. JR clearly has more sippable subtle complexity while M46 comes across as bold and harsh, more suitable in a cocktail. Verdict = JR comes across as more refined and palatable

Final Notes:

  • Jefferson’s Reserve has a sweet & SMOOTH, toasted light oak, caramel, honey, sippable quality
  • Maker’s 46 has a straightforward throat-burning, tongue numbing, oak, vanilla, spicy, off-dry, and harsh alcohol.
  • Jefferson’s Reserve to sip, Maker’s 46 in a cocktail

WINNER = Jefferson’s Reserve

Bruichladdich 1991 Port Cask Finish Aged 16 Years (Islay, Scotland)


Bruichladdich 1991 Port Cask Finish Aged 16 Years, 46% ABV -700ml, (Islay, Scotland)

  • My Rating: C+

On the back label:

“Pronounced ‘brook-laddie'(meaning shore bank) this is Islay’s only privately owned distillery (now owned by Rémy Cointreau), and one of only a heroic handful in Scotland, run with passion by genuine whisky artisans with many generations of expertise.”


Some things I learned about the Bruichladdich distillery:

  • established in 1881, now with Jim McEwan as the Master Distiller
  • their lineup includes unpeated, lightly peated, heavily peated = 40 ppm (designated as Port Charlotte), and super-duper heavily peated = 140+ ppm (aka Octomore)
  • known for their innovative and creative release including experimenting with different casks, peat levels, and special event releases.
  • Visit the distillery for exclusive “Valinch” bottlings, where you bottle them yourself straight from the cask!

  • Style: (Lightly Peated) Islay
  • Taste Profile: Dry dark fruit caramel vanilla oak
  • Where I got it: Grapes & Grains Liquor Depot (W.Edmonton)
  • How much: $87 (after 5% off), March 2011
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would non-scotch drinkers like this: doubtful

Tasting notes: Pours untanned leather light brown, clear with very micro sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Quality cork stopper that didn’t disintegrate after the 8 years of initial bottling. The nosing brings forth aromas of nutty caramel, vanilla, and nasal tingling alcohol detection. Some initial alcohol warmth, followed by red wine/cherry, caramel malt sweetness, honey, vanilla, oak, transitioning to the finish which includes tongue and throat numbness, cinnamon, treacle, finish. Overall decent, somewhat dry which didn’t particularly tickle my fancy.

BenRiach Single Malt 20YO (Scotland)


Curiositas 20 Years Old Single Malt – The BenRiach, 43% ABV -70cl, (Morayshire, Scotland)

  • My Rating: B-

On the back label:

“BenRiach, located in the Heartland of Malt Whisky, displays all the traditional charm of a Speyside distillery. Established in 1898 and built by John Duff, it is one of the few distilleries with its own on-site floor maltings.

The distillery draws its water from the Burnside Springs and uses a lightly peated malted barley varietal as the cereal source of this distinctive and intriguing Speyside malt.

This smooth single malt has an elegant full taste and aroma that captures fruity, floral, spicy notes, with fascinating overtones of honey, vanilla, apples, chocolate and nuts.”


This particular whisky has won:

  • Gold Medal 2005 – International Spirits Challenge
  • Silver Medal 2006 – International Wine & Spirit Competition
  • Silver Medal 2007 – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • Gold Medal 2011 – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • Style: Classic Speyside
  • Taste Profile: caramel -> vanilla/honey/chocolate -> oak/llight peat/more caramel
  • Where I got it: somewhere in Edmonton
  • How much: ~$80, sometime in 2011
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would non-scotch drinkers like this: no

Tasting notes: Pours light orange, kind of lacking in colour for a whisky that has been casked for 20 years. Vanilla and caramel, just a touch of peat on the nose. Slighty thicker than water viscosity, a bit salty at the start, lots of apple-caramel sweetness, vanilla, nutmeg, honeycomb, chocolate, finishing with oak and a small amount of peat. Medium-high tongue numbness and roof and back mouth numbness, soft throat burn, good sippability. Agreeable flavours, though I think I prefer the Macallan 18YO over this one.

Kentucky Bourbon Round 2 – Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve (Challenger) VS Maker’s 46 (Champ)


Round 2 of Kentucky Bourbons. Round 1 was here. Tonight we have a somewhat disparate comparison of the Knob Creek Single Barrel 9YO to a possibly-single barrel w/ oak staves 6-8YO+several months, Maker’s 46.

1) Knob Creek Single Barrel 9YO (Challenger)– 60% ABV – 750ml, (Clermont, KY, USA), $59 CAD @ BCLiquor Stores

  • made with corn, rye, barley malt.
  • each barrel is somewhat unique in flavour profile due to its placement in the warehouse and duration of barrel aging, 9 years being the minimum.
  • Double Gold @ 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

2) Maker’s 46 – 47% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA), $60 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • made with corn, red winter wheat, barley malt.
  • patented hand-dipped wax sealed top
  • 10 toasted French oak staves are added to the barrel and aged for 2-3 months to impart a spicier, more intense caramel and vanilla flavour profile while maintaining their signature “tip the of tongue” finish.
  • Back_To_The_Barrel_2_266


Nose: Knob Creek is up first, and only a medium tingly nasal sensation accompanied by a medium alcohol detection; surprising for 60% abv. Mainly oaked caramel, but otherwise rather muted. In comparison, Maker’s has a noticeably rounder, denser, more aromatic nose consisting of sweeter caramel/toffee, mixed with a toastier burnt wood backdrop. KC = light-caramel+alcohol, Maker’s = thick toasted caramel. Clearly Maker’s 46 is more aromatic.

Taste & Texture: KC flavour builds up softly, starting with a lot of sweet cornmeal up front, spicy hot oaked caramel (rye), intense alcoholic heat + nasal warmth, licorice tongue numbness, extra-long smooth warm finish, all the way down to the very depths of the throat. After drinking KC @60%, Maker’s at a paltry 47% almost seems like water, no joke. Maker’s has a markedly sweeter start(winter wheat), transitioning into a much less spicy toastier oaked caramel with sourness, and about 1/2 the heat and numbness, but surprisingly jagged and unclean compared to KC. KC = light fruity caramel +HEAT, Maker’s = sweet-tangy toasted caramel. It was a hard choice, but KC edged it out with its clean finish. After a month of back-and-forth casual re-tastings, my drink of choice is Maker’s 46. 60% ABV is just way too much; you gag if you don’t swallow properly and half the time it gives me sore throat…

Final Notes:

  • Going into this I actually liked 46 more at first, but actually in essence it depends on what you like. KC is like a bullet train that rips off your toupée, while Maker’s is like a local train that has a lot of activity at every stop (sip).
  • Go Maker’s for flavour, Knob Creek for clean, round smoothness.
  • Knob Creek Single Barrel gives me occasional hiccups and a sore throat.

WINNER = Knob Creek (New Round 2 Champ) Rescinded. Maker’s 46 is still champ.


Kentucky Bourbon Round 1 – Maker’s 46 VS Buffalo Trace


Round 1 of Kentucky Bourbons. Strictly made in Kentucky just to keep things simple but I think I’ll mix up the price ranges from low to high just to get an idea of what’s good out there.

1) Maker’s 46 – 47% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA), $60 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • made with corn, red winter wheat, barley malt.
  • patented wax sealed top
  • why the name 46? This is the 46th variation of 125 recipes attempted to create something new.
  • 10 toasted French oak staves are added to the barrel and aged for 2-3 months to impart a spicier, more intense caramel and vanilla flavour profile while maintaining their signature “tip the of tongue” finish.
  • my dated review of Maker’s Mark original here (C+)


2) Buffalo Trace – 45% ABV – 750ml, (Franklin County, KY, USA), $40 CAD @ Aristocrat Liq 82nd (Edm)


Nose: Starting with Maker’s 46, I immediately get toasted oak, burnt rubber, thick caramel with a touch of honey, vanilla, and a medium level of alcohol detection, though not much nasal burn. Buffalo trace seems more “watered down” in comparison; perhaps it’s the lighter colour that’s throwing me off. In any case, BT has kind of a orange-marmalade citrus-caramel going on, but not as much caramel intensity, and a noticeably more nasal burn. Maker’s = caramel candy, BT = fruity caramel, kinda soapy. My preference is Maker’s 46.

Taste & Texture: Maker’s has boatloads of sweetness up front, mainly caramel, toasted oak, bold vanilla, lots of alcohol heat and nasal warmth, licorice numbness, followed by hot spiciness at the finish. BT feels less thicker, but a gradual build up of apple-pie fruity yet cinnamon/nutmeg-spiced, mild sourness, huge licorice/nutmeg numbness, light-medium heat, somewhat drier finish than 46. Maker’s = bold caramel + heat/length, BT = fruity-floral +numbness. It really depends on what you like in a bourbon, but I like Maker’s 46 more.

Final Notes:

  • Maker’s 46 is more expensive than Buffalo Trace ($60 vs $40, which are both OVERPRICED anyways here in BC…)
  • Maker’s has bolder flavours, and longer length, but more burn and heat.
  • Buffalo Trace is slightly smoother when sipping, and exhibits more composure,
  • Bottom line: Maker’s 46 will definitely hold up better when diluted as a mixer. Both are decent sippers, but Maker’s will stay on your palate longer.


WINNER = Maker’s 46 (Round 1 Champ)

Jim Beam Black Kentucky Bourbon (USA)


  • My Rating: C+

Some facts about Bourbon Whiskey via Wiki:

  • made up of at least 51% corn with the remainder being rye, barley, and wheat
  • aged in new charred-oak barrels
  • straight bourbon has been aged 2+ years with nothing else added

Jim Beam Black, 43% ABV – 750ml, (Clermont, Kentucky, USA)

  • Style: Kentucky Bourbon
  • Taste Profile: Sweet caramel/raisin/chocolate/cola -> major tingly/alcohol burn -> warm/jagged tingly finish.
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores (no longer listed, 2/2013)
  • How much: $24.45, sometime 2010
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no, not after having tried bottles from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
  • Would I recommend this to non-whiskey drinkers: it’s average, won’t get you hooked on Bourbon

-So this “Black” version of Jim Beam is aged 8 years (twice as long as their original white label) and is higher in ABV, 43% vs. 40%.

Tasting notes (neat, room temp): pours a nice clear caramel brown. Got strong caramel notes mixed with tingly alcohol in the background. Drinks with a somewhat watery viscosity, impending building alcohol burn mixed with 7/10-sweetness and tastes of caramel, raisin, chocolate, cola, transitioning into major tingliness/numbness, 7/10-burn, med-high warmth and somewhat jagged throat-burn finish. Definitely not as clean/smooth as JD but packs more flavour and punch. Pick your poison. Still this Bourbon is pretty entry-level compared to the Eagle Rare 17YO (part of the Buffalo Trace collection mentioned above). Not complaining, just saying – you get what you pay for.

Update (9/11/2015): Now the Jim Beam Blacks are aged 6 years instead of previously 8 years. The 8 is now renamed as Jim Beam Black Double Aged 8 years.

Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey (USA)


  • My Rating: B

Some facts about Tennessee whiskey via Wiki:

  • use of sour mashing – a process of adding previous spent mash (grain, malt, water, active yeast) to the new mash in order to control consistency of product
  • Jack uses the Lincoln county processwhere the whiskey is passed through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal which is supposed improve the smoothness.
  • Jack is just 1 of 5 Tennessee whiskey producers in the world (1/2013)

Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey, 40% ABV – 750ml, (Lynchburg, Tennessee, USA)

  • Style: Tennesse Whiskey
  • Taste Profile: Caramel/vanilla -> warmth/alcohol/heat -> mellow smooth caramel woody finish.
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: (was $30), now $32, sometime 2010
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: only after I’ve tried the other 4 Tennessee whiskies
  • Would I recommend this to non-whiskey drinkers: yeah, it’s actually pretty darn smooth

My first memories of Jack was about 10 years ago when I was a total liquor newb and I shared a bottle with about 3 other guys on a ski trip. After skiing for the day, what better way to relax than Jack and PPV pr0n at the hotel. Never having tried Jack I took a whiff and choked as I gasped for air. My friend took and sip and cried out “This tastes like gasoline!!!”. Needless to say we had a good time.

Tasting notes (neat, room temp): pours caramel brown but a shade lighter than Kentucky Bourbon (eg. Buffalo Trace). Very aromatic sweet caramel/honey/maple nose with burning alcohol as you stick your nose in deeper. Drinks with a slight oily/mainly watery mouthfeel, 5/10-sweetness, tastes of caramel, vanilla, mild oak, increasing warmth, tingly and medium alcoholic heat in the mids, finishing clean woody caramelish. Low-medium complexity, medium depth, good transitions, good drinkability. The Lincoln county process seems to make it smooth IMO.

(2nd Tasting 2/2013): On the rocks. Actually on one big spherical rock. I usually like drinks neat and such is the case particularly with JD. Dilution makes JD watery and tasteless to the point where it’s like you’re drinking McDonald’s cola that has been sitting for awhile. Granted it’s even smoother now, but just doesn’t taste right without the dense caramel and woody flavour. D-, never drink JD on the rocks!!

Bushmills White Label Irish Whiskey (Ireland)

Bushmills White Label Irish Whiskey, 40% ABV – 750ml, (Country Antrim, Ireland)

On the back label:

“Welcome to Bushmills, on Ireland’s rugged Antrim coastline, a region with a license to distil granted in 1608 and still home today to Ireland’s oldest working distillery… and one of its finest whiskeys. Triple distilled for smoothness, Bushmills is a whiskey with notes of honey, ripe fruit and sweet spice.”

  • Style: (Blended) Irish Whiskey
  • My Rating: C+
  • Taste Profile: Green apple -> caramel/alcohol/warmth -> clean finish.
  • Where I got it: BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $32, Summer 2010
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to whiskey aficionados: not fully

Tasting notes: pours golden filtered apple juice yellow. Caramel and alcohol burn on the nose. Drinks with a green apple aroma, 6/10-sweetness, light caramel, alcohol in the mids, numbness, warmth, smooth and light flavour, watery viscosity, finishing clean. Low-medium complexity, medium depth, good smoothness, good sippability.

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon (USA)

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon, 45% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA)

On the side label:

“Maker’s Mark is America’s only handmade bourbon whisky-never mass produced. Each batch is small-less than 19 barrels-which means we can be choosy about everything we use and everything we do to craft our whisky. That’s why we use the old-style sour-mash method; each new batch of fermentation begins with a little of the last. The results are a more consistent whisky which is unique and full-flavoured.”

  • Style: Kentucky Bourbon
  • My Rating: C+
  • Taste Profile: Alcohol/Sweetness -> maple/caramel/vanilla/cinnamon -> tingly/warmth finish.
  • Where I got it: BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $41, Summer 2012
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to whisky aficionados: yes

Tasting notes: pours clear caramel copper brown. A nice bright sweet vanilla maple nose. Drinks with a high alcoholic/numbness up front, nice caramel 8/10-persistent sweetness, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, maple, ending with heat, warmth, tingliness, and light burn. Sweet, not terribly complex or dynamic – a solid mixer, not quite a sipper.