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Wiser's 18 Year Old

Posted on by Eric Burke

I've been on a bit of a Canadian Whisky kick the last week or so. Luckily, I try to always keep some of my favorite Canadian Whiskies on hand for just such an occasion. 

The one in my glass tonight is another product that spent almost two decades in the barrel. Wiser's 18 Year Old is an 18-year-old whisky, distilled at the Hiram Walker and Sons Distillery in Windsor Canada. I last purchased the Wiser's 18 back when I was first becoming interested in Canadian Whisky. I was trying to decide which I preferred, 18 or Wiser's Legacy. Luckily for me at that point, I liked both the taste and the price of the Wiser's Legacy more. 

But that said, I remember enjoying the bottle I picked up. So I thought that now that Wiser's Legacy is no longer available, I would go back and give 18 another shot. And I thought I should probably do it while I still could, as I am seeing less and less of it on the shelves these days. 

Wiser's 18 Year Old

Purchase Info: $62.99 for a 750 mL bottle MGM Wine & Spirits, Prior Lake, MN.

Details: 40% ABV. Aged 18 years.

Nose: Cotton candy, mint, cherry, and almond. 

Mouth: Oak, mint, almond, and baking spice play with a nice heat in the mouth. 

Finish: Warm and on the longer side of medium. Lingering oak and spice which fade to cherry candy.

Thoughts: This is a delicious whisky that has many of the same notes you would find in a Bourbon. The fun thing is that it tastes almost nothing like bourbon. Each note is expressed differently. The oak is more refined and is very well integrated. The cherry and almond almost merge into the same note. Wiser's 18 Year Old is a masterpiece of the Whisky Blender's art. 

I really like this and if you see it on the shelf at your local, pick it up and enjoy exploring both the differences and similarities between this and the bourbons you are used to. 


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Orphan Barrel: Entrapment

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank Taylor Strategy for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion and should be taken as just that.

Yes, I know that the name of the site is BourbonGuy but from the beginning, I've had a focus on North American whiskey, which includes bourbon, rye and yes, Canadian. Longtime readers know this, but I've been seeing a lot of new names popping up in the comments so I thought I'd reiterate it. I count myself to be a Canadian Whisky fan. I've enjoyed releases from little known (in the US) names such as Danfield's and Highwood Ninety and from the staples such as Canadian Club and Crown Royal. 

And it was that last one that got me excited when I saw that I'd be getting a review sample. The newest release in the Orphan Barrel line is a 25-year-old Canadian whiskey that was initially intended for Crown Royal. It was left over and set aside. In this case for quite a while. I like Crown Royal, though I find it to be a bit overpriced and overrated. 

Let's see how the leftover bits fair.

Orphan Barrel: Entrapment

Purchase info: This sample was kindly provided by Taylor Strategy. The suggested retail price is $149.99 per 750 mL bottle. 

Details: 25 years old. 41% ABV. Mashbill of 97% corn and 3% malted barley. Distilled in Gimli, Manitoba. Bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Nose: Cinnamon candies, caramel, dried lumber.

Mouth: Very polite. And by that, I mean so gentle that you could honestly hold it in your mouth for minutes before you start to notice it. At that point, sweet and fruity notes combine with a nice nuttiness.

Finish: Gentle and short with cinnamon and nutty notes.

Thoughts: On the surface, there isn't a lot to this. The nose is very good, but you almost have to swallow your sip before the flavor starts to show up. When the flavors arrive, they are also very good. Though, I don't think I would say they are $150 good. Especially when they only show up for the second act. Yeah, this is pretty meh for me. 

And that disappoints and irritates me. There are a ton of delicious, full-flavored, Canadian whiskies on the market. Even the oldest ones are less than half the price of this. I'm terrified that someone will buy this and think that because it was so expensive, that this must be the best. That all Canadian Whiskies are this mild. I worry that in that mythical person's mind all Canadian whiskey will be dismissed. And they shouldn't be.


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My Wandering Eye: Bareceló Imperial

Posted on by Eric Burke

My wandering eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. See if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point.

So. Yes. I'm back on the rum train today, mostly because that's what I've been drinking since I got back to Minnesota. On January first, I went from 73 degrees Fahrenheit in Miami to -12 in Minneapolis a few hours later. A negative swing of 85 degrees. 

I haven't been warm since. 

I experienced it and still can't really comprehend it. But to try to pretend that warmth is a thing that still exists in the world, I drank a lot of rum. A drink I associate with warm places now. 

Tonight's rum is Bareceló Imperial. I bought it during our stop in the Dominican Republic because it is made there and because it was only $20 for a 700 mL bottle. It turns out that it is also available in Minnesota, but it is about $28 for a 750 mL. Mostly I didn't drink this one neat. It was way too sweet for my palate for that. But I did go through a hell of a lot of Rum Old Fashioneds with it. Here's the recipe I used:

Rum Old Fashioned using Barceló Imperial

2 ounces of Barceló Imperial Rum
4 shakes of Woodford Reserve® Sassafras and Sorghum bitters
1/2 Tablespoon or so Simple Syrup
Orange Peel
Ice to taste

So an Old Fashioned is basically the easiest drink you can make. You put the bitters in your glass. Add the simple syrup. I felt that the rum, in this case, was plenty sweet, so I didn't add a lot. Add the rum and however much ice you like. The final touch really helps this one though. You need to express the oils of an orange peel over the drink, rub it around the inner and outer edges of the glass, and drop it in. In this case, the hint of orange makes the drink.

Bareceló Imperial

Purchase Info: $20 for a 700 mL bottle at Dufry Puerto Plata (at the Amber Cove Cruise Port)

Details: 38% ABV. Made in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Nose: Molasses, oak and faint citrus notes.

Mouth: Brown sugar and black cherry notes predominate with baking spice along the sides of the tongue.

Finish: On the gentle side of medium with lingering brown sugar, black cherry, and nutmeg notes.

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Thoughts: For me, this is too sweet to drink neat. I love it in an Old Fashioned though. Using the recipe above, I think I love it better than a whiskey Old Fashioned (though to be fair, I have never thought of an Old Fashioned as my favorite whiskey cocktail). I'm going to say here that the average of loving it in a cocktail and finding it a bit meh neat will be that I like it. And since mine is now empty (I've been rebelling against Dry January), I'll need to pick up another bottle soon.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

My Wandering Eye: Don Q Gran Añejo

Posted on by Eric Burke

My wandering eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. See if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point.

Last week I was on my first Carribean cruise. One of the stops was Puerto Rico. Having realized through this series that I enjoy rum, even if I don't know much about it yet, I made sure that a couple of bottles of the spirit came home with me. When in Rome and all that. 

I don't know a lot about what to look for in a Rum. I haven't spent enough time to learn more than the basics. But I planned ahead and loaded my friend Fred Minnick's book Rum Curious on my Kindle before I left. I may not have tasted a lot of Rum, but I know he did, and he recorded what he learned in that book, so it made an excellent place to start.  

I spent most of my short visit in San Juan visiting the old Forts, but on my way back to the ship I made sure to stop off at the duty-free store so that I could see what they had. My mother-in-law had given me an ultimatum that she wanted to buy me a bottle of Rum for Christmas while we were on the cruise and had given me a $50 limit. Luckily, for Rum that seemed to be a pretty generous limit. I ended up settling on the Don Q Gran Añejo, mostly because Fred said it was good, the bottle said it was 9-12 years old, and it was exactly $50. 

Now I knew nothing about the Don Q brand when I picked it off the shelf. But after visiting their website for a little bit, I realized that they seem to be fairly forthcoming with their information. The company that produces the brand (Destilería Serrallés, Inc.) dates back to the early to mid-1800s and the sugar plantations that were on the island. They started producing Rum in the 1860s. They use water from the Río Inabón as their exclusive water source and their distillery is located outside of Ponce, Puerto Rico. They do their best to be environmentally friendly in their processes. The Don Q brand itself was launched after the end of Prohibition and was named after Don Quixote. Though they don't get into a lot of the data points of production (for instance, Fred Minnick reports that the off the still proof of their Rums are 94.5% ABV which is not on their website), I did enjoy making my way through all the information that they do provide.

Don Q Gran Añejo

Purchase Info: $50 for a 750 mL bottle at the Duty-Free Store in the San Juan Cruise Port, San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Available locally for $59.99 at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN.)

Details: 40% ABV. Blended from rums between 9 and 12 years old. 

Nose: Brown Sugar, vanilla bean ice cream, cola.

Mouth: Soft mouthfeel with vanilla bean ice cream, caramel and a hint of spice. 

Finish: Gentle burn with lingering caramel, baking spice, root beer and a hint of menthol after it is all done.

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Thoughts: This is a tasty drink whether you are having it in a glass with a little ice or in an Old Fashioned. It is sweet with just enough spice and menthol to keep it interesting. It's certainly one I hope to pick up again.


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Bar Review: Carnival Glory's Alchemy Bar

Posted on by Eric Burke

Between Christmas and New Year's I took my first ever cruise. It was a leap for me because I didn't have a high opinion of cruises. In my brain, they were nothing more than excuses for people to overeat, drink too much cheap booze and see sanitized and "safe" versions of other cultures. And for some of the people on the ship with us, this was certainly true. People abounded who drank nothing but premixed, sugary blended daiquiris and margaritas and Bud Light. These also tended to be the people who never left the gated and guarded confines of the poolside cabana rentals and shops that sold nothing but luxury goods, people whose only interaction with the local people trying recover from multiple recent hurricanes was with the waitstaff at the swim up bar.

Luckily, though this was a sizable portion of my fellow passengers, this wasn't everybody. Knowing that there was a wide variety of passengers with a wide range of tastes, the cruise line made sure to cater to a wide range of expectations. Sure there was a Guy's Burger Joint on board for when you want some grease on a bun, but there was also a fine-dining restaurant that you had to dress up to visit. And, sure, there were plenty of places willing to blend you up an umbrella drink made with flavored syrup, cheap rum, and ice. But on the other end of the spectrum was the subject of tonight's review: the Alchemy Bar.

The Alchemy Bar was the place I visited most often outside of my cabin. I was there every evening for a post-dinner cocktail. Behind the bar were three very talented cocktail creators, Jakub, Andriy, and Majda. I like watching people make cocktails, and these three did that with style. It was my entertainment for each evening. And they didn't just have panache, they also had talent. Yes, there was a menu of tasty drinks for just about every palate. But these folks were adept at making anything they had the ingredients to make. I saw many people just walk up and say: "surprise me." Sometimes, they would make something off the menu, but other times—if you were a regular that talked to them and tipped a buck or two per drink—they would know your likes and dislikes and use that knowledge to make something off the top of their head. 

Jakub was great. After talking with me the first night, he knew I was a big fan of bourbon and rye and had no problem making me a Manhattan or a Sazerac. He even let me talk him through making me my version of a Black Manhattan which uses Campari to up the bitterness. 

Jakub making a drink

Majda made me a drink that had me worried at first but turned out to be extremely tasty. It contained bourbon, Chambord liqueur, and Grand Marnier. I didn't know how the combination of raspberry and bourbon would go, but it was delicious, though very sweet. She also knew that before I left the bar, I'd want a Buffalo Trace to take back to the room with me. 

And there was one menu drink that I particularly liked. It was called the Island Old Fashioned. You guessed it; it was an Old Fashioned. They made it with eight-year-old rum that they had infused with cinnamon and other spices, house-made bitters, and simple syrup. I ended up having this made for me at least once by all three bartenders. Out of the three, I liked Andriy's version of that the best. I think he added an extra dash of bitters that upped the spice level and made it much more interesting. 

I don't know that you should pay for a cruise just to go to the Alchemy bar. But if you happen to be on a Carnival ship that has one, I think you owe yourself a visit or six. You probably won't have the same folks making you drinks that I had. But I'm sure they will be just as entertaining and talented. And why not toss them a buck while you are at it. You're already paying $11 for a drink, you might as well make it $12. They really seemed to appreciate it.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visitBourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!