I’m someone who likes to try new things and enjoys seeing the results of experimentation. Because of that, I very well may have been curious enough to try this even at it’s steep price point had I not been sent this sample from Heaven’s Door. I’m a fan of Irish Whiskey generally, and Redbreast specifically, so to see a 10-year old bourbon finished in their casks and with the collaboration of their Master Blender Billy Leighton got me excited to crack it open. I’ll also give credit where its due and point out that Ryan Perry, the Master Blender at Heaven’s Door also surely pulled his own weight in selecting the sourced bourbon to include in this project.
Last October I reviewed the first whiskey offering out of Wonderland and really enjoyed it. I like it when smaller distilleries try to do their own thing, rather than try to copy the big boys and beat them at a game they’ve perfected. The idea of blending three straight whiskies together that are all aged separately is not 100% novel, but is unique enough to give the folks at Wonderland a niche in the market. The only critique I had in my review last year was that I felt it had been proofed down too far and that a bottling at 90-100 proof would allow it to really shine. I’m not sure if they were paying attention to little-old-me when they decided to create this cask-strength offering, but I certainly jumped at the chance to review it when given the opportunity!
You may have read my review of the 5-year offering from The Dublin Liberties, Oak Devil, and seen that I did not recommend it very highly (mostly as a result of it being overpriced for what it is). I don’t believe that to be the case here with Copper Alley. It has many of the stereotypical notes of a pot-stilled Irish Whiskey while also bringing some new things to the table as a result of its sherry-cask finish. Most notably, those sherry casks bring some interesting wine notes to both the palate and the dry finish, which I quite enjoyed.
I really enjoy Irish Whiskey and put them into roughly two categories where value is concerned. One of them is the cheaper, simple whiskies that I’d used for mixing with ginger ale, pouring over ice, etc., and the other is for richer, more complex whiskies that I’ll sip slowly and enjoy on their own. For me, Tullamore Dew and Writers’ Tears would be examples of the former that I immensely enjoy and Red Breast or Green Spot would be examples of the latter.
I’ve had a hard time remembering a time when my tasting notes differed so widely from the brand’s own for a bottle I actually liked (usually when the difference is this great, it’s a dumpster fire). The sample bottle I received tasted simply like The Original Ten that had a couple extra years on it. I did not pick up virtually any of the sugar or dark fruit notes that a sherried whisky or one aged in port casks should impart. To the contrary, I found the finish quite tart and dry. That being said, I quite liked this bottle and wouldn’t want people to think that it’s not worth a taste. Of the non-smoked whiskies coming out of Benriach right now, though, I believe The Original Ten to be a better value.
If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely seen this bottle in the #3 spot of the Whisky Advocate Top 20 Whiskies of 2020 list and have come to Bourbon & Banter as your one-stop-shop for some honest feedback.
Here’s what I’ll tell you: this whisky is like drinking a very good, mildly-sherried scotch while someone across the room from you is smoking a cigar that you think you’d like the smell of it were closer. I do not say that to imply that this is a bad whisky: it’s not. While it’s Nose is only solid, the Taste on this is really something special, and the Finish is really unique and enjoyable.
With all the press that The Smoky Twelve has been getting recently, I was anxious to find out if The Smoky Ten (which comes in 10 dollars cheaper) is as solid an offering from Benriach. If you’re making a lists of ‘Best Value Whiskies of 2020’ this deserves on a spot on it whether your list is 20 bottles long or 5.
All the bottles I was fortunate enough to try from Benriach are solid whiskies on their absolute worst days and I’m keen to try some more from them in the future. To me, the peated whiskies stand above their unpeated offerings in terms of quality, and the hero of this one is the wood management. Each cask that the spirit is aged in takes center stage at some point in the tasting. The Jamaican rum casks offer some brown sugar and a bit of chocolate to pair with the peat and smoke on the nose. The bourbon barrels give the palate just the right amount of spice. Lastly, the toasted virgin oak ties the finish up in a neat, little bow that really makes you want to start the whole thing over.
If you’re familiar with Speyside scotches, imagine paying 8 extra bucks for a slightly more bold Glenmorangie 10. That’s how I would describe this single malt. I always have a bottle of Glenmorangie 10 on my bar, and I prefer this bottle from BenRiach to it, because while the former’s solitary sweetness makes it more suitable for dessert, I found the sweetness in The Original Ten to be more well-rounded with a bit of spice. I think if you enjoy Scotches from Speyside, this is one versatile dram – equally suited to dinner or dessert. Check it out, let me know what you think and don’t forget to #drinkcurious!
I have made no secret of my love for independent bottlers and recently wrote an article for Bourbon & Banter where I lamented the fact that no one is doing with American whiskies what independent bottlers are able to do with Scotches. Just a few months later, a sample of Lost Lantern, Edition 1 appeared on my doorstep. I want to open this review with an admission: I really wanted to like this.