Nose: This has a whole lot of smoke on the nose. It is hard to pick out anything else because the smoke is pretty strong. Palate: Ay chihuahua! The first sip follows the nose in lockstep and delivers a really nice punch of smoke. I like smokiness in a whiskey (not in ALL of them, but as a separate category) and I found this first sip to be delicious. The mouthfeel is rich and oily. There’s not a lot of heat, but what heat there is, is a really pleasant warming that starts in the back of the throat and follows down your throat as you swallow. It resembles having an after-dinner cognac. Later sips bring out a nice dark-chocolate type sweetness. It is just a little “chocolate bitter”, but blends very well with the smoke. The finish on this is long and it keeps the smokiness in your mouth for a long time. It also leaves a slight dark chocolate aftertaste. Because of this long finish, it makes a great slow sipper. As with many of the reviews of late, this is probably not a great choice for a summer sip, but would be an awesome winter-time treat. Much later sips seemed to me to get sweeter and the smoke actually tones down a bit. I’m not sure if this is because my palate was getting used to the smoke. The sweetness reminded me a bit of port…but is more likely to be a result of this being finished in sherry casks. Comment: As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of almost all NY whiskies I’ve tasted, but Hillrock is one of the exceptions. What I really like about this is the smokiness, which reminds me a little bit of biting into a juicy hamburger that has been grilled on charcoal. Old school grilling, where the charcoal really imparts a lot to the taste into what you’re eating. You can almost feel the chewiness. I like American-made single malts because they have the smokiness I like WITHOUT the peatiness I do NOT like, but which is found in a number of Scotches. If you don’t like smokiness in your whiskey, take a pass on this one because you’re not likely to like it. If you do like smokiness in your whiskey, you should absolutely try this. If you don’t KNOW if you like smokiness in your whiskey, this is the guy that might win you over, so don’t miss a chance to try it. This is 86 proof and the mashbill is 100% malted barley. The barley is grown and malted on-site. Surprisingly, one Internet source says it is malted using imported peat from Scotland. Another says they use peat from New England. The Distillery’s website, however, doesn’t say anything about this…..which you think they would, if they were doing it. A custom-built 250 gallon copper pot still is used to distill it. It is aged in new charred oak American barrels and then transferred to barrels that held Hillrock’s Solera Bourbon (another favorite!). Finally, it is finished in a combination of ex-Olorosso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The total age time is about 6 years. The master distiller is Dave Pickerell, formerly of Maker’s Mark. I should note that I’ve had my bottle (HS-2) for a number of years, so it is one of the earlier batches. This usually runs in the mid $90 range, so it isn’t likely to be a daily drinker. Sometimes you can find it in the $80 range, but it is still pricey. As a once-in-a-while treat or for something really different, I think it is worth the price for a bottle, but I’d highly encourage you to try it first before spending your hard-earned bucks on it.
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