Spirit Surveyor

Private Selections

I have been lucky to be on the panel to select a number of Single Barrel/Private Bottlings of some spirits. Below you can find information on the selections, my notes, and links to the products (if they are still available).

Le Galion Grand Arome – Aficionados x Fine Drams

This rum is made at Le Galion distillery, a rare producer in Martinique in that it uses molasses rather than fermented pressed sugar cane as the base for its spirit. The original sugar factory dates back to 1861, adapting to rum production following World War One (though it retains a small sugar factory, the last to remain active on the island). Le Galion is found close to the sea, by the town of La Trinité in Martinique’s eastern reaches. Grand Arôme is the title given to this distillery’s unique style of high ester, molasses-based rum.

A rare expression, Le Galion Grand Arome clocks in with 481.7 g/hLAA esters and 1342.2 g/hLAA total volatile substances to ensure no lack of flavor at 58.32% ABV. The spirit was distilled in a column still.

My notes:

Nose: Initially I got a large hit of vanilla buttercream with some bell pepper, clove and papaya. Coming back to it there was more soy sauce and sourdough starter that came through.

Taste: Lots of sweet fruit (not under or overripe), some lemon grass. It feels lighter and more floral and delicate that one might expect.

Finish: Funk hits harder on the finish, some burnt plastic and rubber, rotten banana comes in. The finish is surprisingly short, given the context of what it is.

Bottled and sold by FineDrams

New Yarmouth NYE/HM – Aficionados x Fine Drams

This bottling of New Yarmouth NYE/HM steps up to deliver brash contrast and ester structure. New Yarmouth is found in the Clarendon Parish of Jamaica, dates back to the early 1700s, and is the sister distillery to the world famous Appleton Estate.

This rum was made with a base of molasses, fermented for a day and half with a propriety yeast strain, then distilled in New Yarmouth’s small pot stills (far smaller than Appleton’s huge 5,000 gallon pots).

NYE/HM from New Yarmouth is a unique marque given to rums with between 500 and 700 g/hLAA of esters. Chemical analysis has determined this expression delivers 585.5 g/hLAA esters and 1486 g/hLAA total volatile substances, and this 600 bottle batch will surely not last long.

My Notes:

Nose: Juicy fruit, candied orange peel, charred pineapple, there some light nuttiness in there too?, some rubber, cream, olives. Per my wife: “It smells like someone left an orange in a Wellie boot for 2 weeks”

Taste: Very sweet, pineapple, mango, papaya, simple syrup

Finish: Dark chocolate brings in some bitterness, rotting banana peel, some toasted peanut brittle. I would classify this finish as “aggressive” but in a way that is a balance of intensity and heat.

Bottled and sold by FineDrams

Ezra Brooks and Rebel Single Barrel Bourbon – Greens Farms Spirits

In September of 2021, Greens Farms Spirits, a store out of Connecticut, was nice enough to invite me out with them to Lux Row distillery and select both some Ezra Brooks and Rebel bourbons. Our options consisted of 4 to 5 year distillate that was contract distilled by Heaven Hill, the Ezra stood out with a chocolate pudding note that was very tasty and the Rebel brought those wheated baking spices but soft sweetness. Top notch experience from the bourbon, to the company, and the hospitality of Lux Row.

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel – r/Bourbon “200 Grand”

In October of 2021, t8ke, the head of the r/Bourbon single barrel program, invited me out to make a few selections of Russell’s Reserve for r/Bourbon. A dream of mine since taking spirits seriously was to pick on premise at Wild Turkey in their warehouse. We ended up going through a wide array of barrels curated by Campari and Bruce Russell and joined by Nick from Greens Farms Spirits and WhiskeyStamford (on instagram), we were told this barrel was a 12 year from CNA. It ended up being just a few days away from 12 years, but was a standout nonetheless. Everything about this experience lived up to my expectations and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. And be on the lookout for the release of the second barrel we picked, “Dirty K!”

1792 Full Proof: r/Bourbon

March of 2022, t8ke was nice enough to invite me out again with Nick, this time to pick in the warehouses at Barton 1792. After a personal tour of the facilities, we spent the morning in the cool floor of one of the warehouses where they had rolled out 8 barrels for us to thieve from and taste at cask strength. A few were easy to weed out, but we were left with a total of 4 that had strong, interesting flavor that came through despite the cool temperatures. I remember barrel #1 came through with a lot of ripe apple notes that made me really push for its selection.

Knob Creek Single Barrel: r/Bourbon Triple Barrel Tangle

Following our selection at 1792, we were treated to an amazing experience at the Harrison-Smith House in Bardstown by our Beam representative. Since they are still doing their sample kits that include 3 barrels to select from, we sat down and got to tasting. Each one seemed like a hit which made it both easy to agree on any would be good, but hard to pick just one, t8ke worked his magic and secured all 3 to be bottled for us.

Right as the bottled delivered, my wife and I were in the process of fostering 3 puppies from the local animal shelter. Seemed fitting to take some pictures of the three dogs with the three bottles (though far easier said than done). I am a huge proponent for helping and adopting dogs and love when the whiskey community can do things to support as well.

New Riff Single Barrel: r/Bourbon “Crowd Goes Wild” and “Call it Fay-te”

New Riff was one of the single barrel programs that r/Bourbon participated in. I believe they only did one selection in 2019 compared to the 100+ that they are now doing. But NR is still a pillar of the program, and in 2022 I was invited along with a panel of fellow internet-whiskey enthusiasts. New Riff was incredibly hospitable, gave us some pours of their limited releases, and rolled out some great barrels. The majority agreed on one that showed off the great flavors of New Riff’s high rye mash, but took them to a new level. One taster though, known as “US-Fay” in our group, convinced us that the most divisive sample was his favorite and deserved a bottle as well. Behind the scenes, t8ke was able to secure that barrel and get it into the program as well since it clearly was Fay-te.