Saturday, June 25, 2011

McMenamins' Edgefield Hogshead Whiskey Review:

Complexity in Subtlety

"Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore always carry a small snake." - W. C. Fields

Finally I get the chance to open up the Edgefield Distillery Hogshead. Rated best in class at the 2011 American Distilling Institute Conference, surprisingly I’ve had trouble finding many reviews of this whiskey, much less very positive reviews.  Obviously, just because some organization says that a whiskey is good doesn’t mean it is, but it should lead someone to raise an eyebrow when all the reviews being read are rating the whiskey as moderate or lacking complexity. Not to mention that the ADI is geared toward promoting craft distilling. They know their stuff and they are not the big wigs from one of the multi-nationals so I would say you can generally trust their opinion.

However, many of the reviews are expected with this sort of whiskey. In the same way Irish whiskey is overlooked by Scottish whiskey, I have been seeing the same trend with the Hogshead reviews. We should always be careful to distinguish between light/heavy and simple/complex. They are two different things and being light or heavy generally has nothing to do with the complexity or lack thereof. Light whiskeys, just like Irish whiskeys, should not be distinguished as lesser than heavy or Scottish whiskeys, they are simply different. Though comparing unlike whiskeys is great practice and should be encouraged, you always need to remember that they are different and should be allowed to stand on their own in their various fields.

Not to mention the same thing could be argued for when it comes to unaged verses aged whiskey and how they are of different categories – though it is interesting to make comparisons to understand the change in the barrel, as I will talk about below.

Edgefield Hogshead Review:

Price: $32.50 for 750ml bottle. Sold exclusively at McMenamins locations.

Packaging/Label: Similar to the White Dog – same positive comments and complaints as before. But I personally think the Hogshead design is more preferable.

Alcohol Content: 46% alcohol by volume, 92 proof

Color: Copper like. Honeyed amber shade.

Nose: The first scent I picked up was a beautiful floral aroma. Green gauges. Kiwi fruit, and light strawberry and banana. Sour green apple which is much more toned down and refined compared to the white dog.

Taste: Arrives with that delightful floral note next to a unassuming peppermint strain which then develops into a lovely pepper note. Smoky vanilla and light black licorice. On the finish caramel and chocolate produces a light fudge flavor. Nice dry finish.

Re-Tasting of the White Dog: The nose of the White Dog changes entirely with my new Hogshead vantage point. On the nose a jammy fruit appears more pronounced. I think of melon, and again jack fruit. The sugary sweetness is more pronounced and on tasting the pepper note once again it is more articulated. The sour green apple which I love in the hogshead comes through more fully. I was reminded of a house margarita and tequila until it hit me - I went to my kitchen cabinet and pulled out Blue Agave (used as a sugar, simple syrup and/or pancake/waffle syrup substitute) and nosed it. Exactly what I was looking for! I tasted a few small drops which perfectly matched the sugary sweetness I was tasting in the White Dog.

Conclusion: Arriving full-circle back at the Hogshead from my re-tasting of the White Dog I could taste chocolate which transformed into to malt, as in malt balls or a malt milk shake. This whiskey arrives like an Irish whiskey but some of the spicy overtones develop like a high rye bourbon, but never over-demanding. Because of this unassuming mild natured whiskey it is easy to assume there is little going on, but this is exactly why I would say this is a very good 100% malted barley whiskey. You have to search in its subtlety.

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