Tag Archives: whisky

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

I already mentioned how I appreciate a lot their Platinum Label (which came out a couple of years ago, it has been renamed since, it’s now called Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old). 

Then last year I stumbled upon their Double Black that I reviewed here and that I liked a lot too.

So I decided this year that I would try the other ones (except the super expensive blue label and special editions ones, except if someone gives them as a present — a girl can dream).

I didn’t taste it in my Impitoyable whisky glass this time but still in a proper whisky glass from La Maison du Whisky in Paris (bought back in the day, to enjoy properly the single malts I was starting to collect). No ice for the tasting, I added the ice after to enjoy my drink once I had finished with tasting and taking notes.

This is a blended whisky and their core, most basic whisky, so to speak. 40% vol.

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Bright golden in glass, very limpid.

The nose is very smoky, malt, a hint of vanilla and caramel in the back.

In mouth, superbly smoky, vanilla, a bit fruity in the middle mouth (banana ? and almost a bit of pear too), then vanilla again and light caramel in the ending and the after mouth.

I don’t regret having this blended whisky in my collection, it is worth buying and drinking. It would even be nice as an after dinner with good company and a cigar.

Rated 87.5 in the Whiskey Bible 2020 (Jim Murray) as very good to excellent and worth buying, which  I agree totally. This Red Label is more on the fruity side (definitely pear, as I revisited it weeks later just before publishing this post) than the Double Black which is more on the herbal side and bolder of course. The Double Black is rated 94.5 in the Whiskey Bible which means « superstar whisky ».

All in all this Red Label is a well rounded whisky that should please everyone, the fruity side making it rather approachable. 

A classic for a good reason !

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch # 2

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch # 2

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch # 2

Somewhere in June came is the batch number 2 of the excellent Penelope Bourbon. I reviewed their first batch here.

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch # 2

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch # 2

I bought 2 bottles of this batch number 2, one bottle travelled with me to France in checked bagage as a present for my father (it arrived intact fortunately ! )

Before fixing any Kentucky Mule or Mint Juleps, we had a proper tasting of this new batch, straight without any ice.

Same as batch number 1, batch number 2 is a four grain straight bourbon whiskey, 40% vol. 

Golden color in glass.

Nose of vanilla, butterscotch, caramel and cream. A slight variation from the batch number 1 which had a scent of roasted cereals and honey in addition to the vanilla and caramel.

In mouth : cream, vanilla, caramel then cream again as an after mouth. It’s very round, even better than the first batch. It feels almost like a vanilla ice-cream, more specifically the creamy side of vanilla ice-cream.

It was very much appreciated by all the French people in my family (my father, mother, sister and son) here in France.

In short, cream and butterscotch : a delight !

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch # 2

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch # 2

Enjoying a mint julep with Penelope Bourbon

Enjoying a mint julep with Penelope Bourbon

A mint julep made with Penelope Bourbon

As far as I remember I have always been a cocktail person : since my early twenties I have enjoyed cocktails, not only drinking them but even better, preparing and mixing them.

However I don’t fancy over complicated cocktails, with too many ingredients, that don’t taste anything precise in the end, neither the sum nor the combination of the ingredients. I like to keep things simple : 2 to 3 ingredients maximum, better with only 2, and sometime some carbonated water or a soft soda to make a lighter or longer drink. Cocktails such as daiquiri, margarita, gin fizz, Moscow mule, dry martini (very dry actually, my favorite, one ingredient and a half plus an olive, that’s for another time) caipirinha, mojito. Usually one spirit, some lemon or lime juice and a carbonated soft drink or soda water. Sometimes a second spirit or a bitter, Angostura preferably. Nothing more. The most complicated one I like — I started with it at the Harry’s Bar in Paris (where this very version of the white lady was created by Harry precisely) — would be the white lady (2 spirits, gin and Cointreau plus lemon juice). But generally I prefer having those simple and straightforward cocktails I mentioned above.

And the mint julep of course.

To keep it simple, I usually follow the Harry’s Bar recipe from their very book, which is as follow: powder sugar with a bit of water and 8 to 10 mint leaves in a highball or any large glass, stir gently to melt the sugar, at the same time it will release the mint flavor from the leaves. Don’t crush nor brutalize the mint otherwise some bitter and green herbal taste will follow which you don’t want of course. Then crushed ice, one fluid ounce of bourbon (roughly 3 cl or one dose using a cocktail jigger (those double conical shaped measures), stir, repeat : crushed ice, another ounce of bourbon stir, repeat depending on the size of your glass. I stop after the second ounce of bourbon but depending on your thirst you could continue. Lastly, float with a dash of bourbon (the actual recipe calls for another yet stronger 101 proof bourbon, the only part of the recipe I don’t follow : actually I float with a generous dash the same bourbon.)

The key ingredient to this cocktail is obviously the bourbon, this is a one-liquid-ingredient cocktail apart from the mint leaves for the taste. There comes the Penelope Bourbon, my new discovery from this year (your can read the full discovery and also the full review).

And yes the bourbon makes a difference ! The bourbon we use in such a cocktail that is merely pure bourbon with some mint leaves does matter indeed : bad taste or bad quality bourbon would make a poor mint julep. As I already enjoyed the Penelope Bourbon as such, plain and straight, it was the most suitable candidate for the perfect mint julep.

Which it was indeed, the best mint julep I have ever had so far !

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

After the tasting at Stirling Fine Wines the other day, I wanted to have a proper tasting at home using the right tasting glass — my Impitoyable whisky tasting glass.

So Penelope Bourbon is a four grain straight bourbon whiskey, 40% vol. All the details about the company and its creators as well as the reason for its proof (alcohol content) in my previous post .

Their website : penelopebourbon.com

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Penelope Bourbon : face to face with the Impitoyable whisky tasting glass

In the glass it has a pale vibrant golden color, slightly cloudy (really a hint) depending on the temperature.

With this proper glass that has a chimney type collar, it is easier to have a good sense of its scents. It has a nose of roasted cereals with honey, a hint of homemade pie, then vanilla and caramel — more the butterscotch type — and malt. The scent is very round and delicate.

When smelling and tasting it in my Impitoyable whisky glass, I didn’t put any ice in it so it doesn’t alter the tasting by diluting the spirit : but to cool it down I rather used the metal rim that is put under the glass (between the glass and the coaster). The metal rim is put in advance in the freezer so it can cool down the spirit in the glass from the outside without needing any ice cube. But after the tasting per se, to simply enjoy my bourbon I put an ice cube — only one as advised by Daniel Polise, the co-founder of Penelope Bourbon during our chat at the Stirling Fine Wines tasting. 

In mouth it is very smooth with a powerful honey and vanilla taste, then homemade pie, then a hint of flower (honeysuckle), then comes the rich caramel taste, on the butter caramel side. At that point I also found a taste of homemade crumble. It is very sweet and creamy or even buttery but the creamy side of butter — the very pleasant side of fresh butter. The finish and after mouth is vanilla and caramel. 

All this smoothness makes it a very approachable bourbon.

In the background one can feel the structure brought by the rye grain. Behind its sweetness and its smoothness, it has structure and strength but it is nicely mellowed (fondu) by and in the honey, vanilla and caramel notes.

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

This bourbon can be tried and liked even by people who don’t appreciate the usual sharpness of whisky, though usually all bourbons are on this milder taste end (no heavy smoky nor peat tastes that are common and almost mandatory in Scotch whisky). The fact that it is also lower proof helps to make it smooth to the palate, without the aggressive attack of a high alcohol content.

But even if like me you are a Scotch whisky and even preferably a single malt drinker, you can enjoy this sweet, smooth and round bourbon as another whisky experience. I will definitely have it again in lieu of a Scotch times to times. 

One can drink it before meal as aperitif or after the meal as a sipping spirit with friends when we rebuild the world through the evening and the night. To perfect the experience I would even have it with some high quality chocolates or even an artisan French caramel made with real butter and cream (I am thinking something like the Isigny Ste Mère caramels from Normandy).

All in all a very pleasant experience of actually enjoying and appreciating bourbon for itself : as I mentioned previously, I am not used to drink bourbon, at least not straight. In the past the only ways I had bourbon were in cocktails or with fruit juice or coke and sometimes in a hot toddy type of drink.

I am happy to have found a bourbon that I can drink and savor as such, as I would do with a Scotch whisky or single malt whisky. I am absolutely happy that I bought it, it’s a nice addition to my whisky collection and it will become a classic and regular item in this collection.

One last thing : during our little chat, Daniel Polise and Michael Paladini, the founders, mentioned that they are preparing a batch number 2 (this one is batch number 1) that would be slightly different because they plan to age the bourbon in barrels that were previously used to mature port. It’s very exciting to see how it turns out.

So… to be continued…

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Supporting local businesses: Penelope Bourbon tasting at my local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ

Penelope Bourbon tasting at my local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ

the two founders of Penelope Bourbon at the tasting in my local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ

I buy 99% of my wine, beer and spirits at my local store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ. I have been a customer there almost since day one when I moved to NJ. Let’s say I started going there for my wine and spirits needs in 2003 or 2004. On top of being nice, dependable, of good advice and having right prices, they are located at a ridiculously close 3.2 miles away from my house.

They had a bourbon tasting today, March 14th 2019, from a local (New Jersey !) small company, Penelope Bourbon. The other day I was browsing their website for something else and I stumbled upon their banner advertising for the tasting.

Penelope Bourbon

Penelope Bourbon

I don’t know much about bourbon, I barely drink it but at the idea of supporting a small business, furthermore local — two businesses at once actually, my local wine and spirits store Stirling Fine Wines and the small bourbon company Penelope Bourbon — I was all for it and decided at once to give it a go.

Thus I went tonight ! I had a nice chat with the two founders, who created the bourbon blend, a small batch because it’s a small company and that’s their first batch. I took some pictures and tried a couple of sips to get an idea. 

Penelope Bourbon tasting at my local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ

Penelope Bourbon tasting at my local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ

Even in the little plastic cup you could tell it’s a well thought blend. It is 40% vol or 80 proof. They made it that way, as they told me, to bring back down the bourbon to 80 proof instead of the peak proofs it had gone these past years (everything seems to go « over-proof » recently). They wanted to make a bourbon that you can actually drink without a need to dilute it… or collapse if you don’t.

80 proof / 40% vol is perfectly bearable. If you add an ice cube to drink it, even more so.They also wanted a bourbon that is approachable, easy to drink for beginners or first timers in the bourbon or whisky range of spirits. This is indeed the case, this bourbon is accessible both in taste (it is easy to like and to drink, without being dull nor boring nor having any kind of standardized taste) and in price (at 30$ a bottle for a small handcrafted and thoughtfully developed batch, who can complain ?)

Penelope Bourbon

Penelope Bourbon

I took some quick mental notes while having a couple of tasting sips (I had a driver, just in case) : I could feel the strength of the rye grain at first, then came quickly in the famous vanilla taste (expected in all bourbons, that’s what used to make them easier to drink for beginners than a scotch whisky, let alone a pure or a single malt) and an after mouth of nuts that is extremely pleasant and original too. On the top of my head rather a hazelnut type of nuts, if I remember well.

Penelope Bourbon tasting at my local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ

Penelope Bourbon tasting at my local wine store, Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ

I’ll do a proper tasting in the right shaped glass — my Impitoyable whisky glass — later on and write some tasting notes for this blog.

To be continued…

Penelope Bourbon

Penelope Bourbon

Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky

I already know and appreciate a lot their Platinum Label, which came out a couple of years ago and has been renamed since then into simply Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old. A very impressive blended scotch whisky, I’ll post a review on that one later on.

The other day, there was a red tag sale at my local wine and spirit joint (namely Stirling Fine Wines in Stirling, NJ) and after browsing and putting a couple of wine bottles in my cart, I just went to have a quick look in the spirit section. There, I stumbled across this Johnnie Walker Double Black. It’s not as pricey as the Platinum/18 Year Old used to be, it’s rather a more modest whisky price wise. I decided to have a go and I bought it.

Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky

It’s a blended Scotch whisky from Johnnie Walker, 40% vol. Apparently it’s a special iteration directly inspired by their Black Label. On the blurb they mention that its special character is given by casks that were specially heavily charred for this particular whisky.

I must also mention that I tasted it in the Impitoyable whisky tasting glass to get the most out of it. I also usually drink my whiskies with ice but for tasting purposes and for being more accurate, I didn’t put any ice for tasting it. Rather I used a particularity of this tasting glass to cool down the whisky : the glass comes with a metal rim to be used as a cooling coaster (this metal rim has to be put in advance in the freezer. Mine stays there and I just fetch it whenever needed). This metal rim is rather sophisticated and follows the form of the glass with its grooves etc, so it cools down very effectively whatever liquor is in the glass.

In the glass (the bottle is very dark, almost black, so it’s impossible to make out the whisky color ) the whisky is a deep golden brown color, also very bright. Very pleasing to the eye and very warming before even tasting it. It has nice extremely long legs on the walls of the glass that are very regular.

The nose is interesting, rich, smoky (very much expected with the heavily charred casks the whisky has been matured in) and with the usual vanilla and caramel scents. But the final impression is that it is very smoky before the round vanilla and caramel scents come in. It also smells of green grass and reminds me a bit of tea (lapsang souchong smoked tea of course but in a faint and delicate way). Mineral and gun flint also.
(The glass with its chimney like opening helps a lot to concentrate the scents and flavors.)

The mouth is rich and extremely smoky but a delicate smoky taste. It feels very fulfilling when swallowing. Then come the additional tastes of vanilla and caramel. It is very round and sweet as an after mouth impression. There is also a slight (pleasant) bitterness with an herbal hint (herbal in the sense of these herbal traditional liquors such as Benedictine or Chartreuse) or even a bit like some armoise liquor. 

Very warming and fulfilling with those deep tastes of vanilla and caramel — almost tasting like a caramel pie. Then after several sips comes a slightly mineral taste and some gun flint, wood of course and a hint of licorice, almost a taste of tar but pleasant.

An excellent whisky, blended scotch whisky that is. I don’t know the regular Black Label from Johnnie Walker but it makes me want to try it and maybe make a cross comparison between the two. The only other Johnnie Walker I know, as I mentioned before, is the Platinum Label 18 Year Old which is sweeter, less smoky less strong and assertive than this one but which I highly recommend.

I must also point out that I am usually a pure or single malt drinker, I never buy nor drink blended whisky (in the scotch whisky world I mean). I just made an exception a couple of years ago when the Platinum 18 Year Old version came out, a whisky that I bought on a whim right away, as soon as it was released, an impulse that I didn’t regret.

I just regret not being able to find those wrapped Chinese sausages here in the USA (that I used to find easily in any Chinese supermarket in France) as they would be a perfect match à l’apéritif for this excellent whisky.

I was also thinking it would pair nicely with a small cigar after dinner, ideally Cuban.