Lots one could say about this whiskey but I'll settle for saying that it has had the critics drooling since its release and, so it would seem, also the 'layperson'. I've liked all previous Heaven Hill products and have been really enjoying my forays into the rye world. It's also fairly hard to come by in the UK so I grabbed a bottle while I could. Expectations were a little high, it must be said . . . so how is it?
Bottle's been open almost two months with about 4/5's left. Pour is neat (and large!) and, for a change, from my Taylor D glass.
Nose - Big, sweet spices; lots of clove, some cinnamon, baker's ginger, pepper a little cardamom and a hint of anise. What's delightfully unusual here though is that it's as though the spices (which are mostly sweet in relation to spices in general, but not sweet per se) have been sugar coated. Spices on candy floss, if you will. It's delightful. There's a little chocolaty toffee in there, sour red apple and rye bread along with a slight gherkin note. The alcohol is present but it doesn't burn or sting, but rather warms the senses.
Taste - Oh man, you can chew on this for an age - great body and grip. More of the sour apple and spun-sugar on the arrival, which seems contrary to the nose's suggestion; but then the spices from the nose unfurl on the tongue. Would it be pretentious to say they dance? Yes. Moving on. Turns a little drier as it develops and the pepper sings loudly. I also get some vanilla and a slightly floral, bourbon like flavour.
Finish - Fairly long. More pepper and some oak tannins that balance nicely with the sweet, spicy nose and palate.
This isn't far of the bliss point in terms of whisk(e)y, it really isn't. I've never had a rye that offers such a sweet counter balance to all the spice the way this does, and it is immensely enjoyable. In fact, balanced is a great way to describe this along with cliches such as 'it's like a fireworks display in my mouth'. I am left a little sorrowful as each sip passes though as a) it's not a cheap bottle over here and b) it's not all that available. Still, this is a must for a repurchase - I'd buy a case if I could.
Thanks for your excellent review. This sounds delightful, and it’s been on my “want to try” list for awhile, but at $90 CAD, it’s just a little too expensive (even by Ontario standards) for me to take the plunge blindly.
@Victor Re: Batch variations and trust
You are absolutely correct. I’m incredibly hesitant to buy another HP 12, which is a bit illogical since I’ve only had one bad bottle in many years of buying “good, very good, and excellent” bottles. But the fact remains, I’m hesitant to buy it. I’m incredibly reluctant to buy anything from Glen Garioch, since I’ve tried samples from 3 different expressions and all of them were badly sulphured.