Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.
Last summer we first reported on New York-based Hillrock Estate Distillery releasing a peat-smoked American single malt. Their existing unsmoked single-malt was well-received, and the newer smoked version is in fact several different whiskies, all with varying levels of smoke.
Hillrock is notable for being one of the few field-to-glass distillers in the world, and production is overseen by former Maker’s Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell. Currently, they also make a solera-aged bourbon and a double-cask rye, the former of which we reviewed recently.
Each bottle of this American single malt comes with a barrel number, and each barrel has received a different amount of peat smoking, from less than eight hours up to 20. In general, earlier barrels are more lightly smoked. I sampled barrel 8, which, according to the distillery, is in the medium-smoke range—somewhere between 8 and 14 hours.
In the glass, it’s a deep, earthy russet, with tightly-packed, sluggish legs. Here are my tasting notes:
Nose: a faint citrusy note is the first thing I noticed, against a backdrop of smoke. I also picked up a touch of warm spice. After a few moments in the glass, though, an almost overwhelming white pepper aroma showed up, and it was difficult for me to notice anything else.
Palate: lightly spicy, with smoke, leather, and more of that white pepper.
Finish: long, smooth, and warm, with oak and, you guessed it, more white pepper.
I don’t know if my impression of this whiskey is mostly due to my inexperience with peat-smoked whiskeys—I’ve long been an avowed bourbon devotee and had never tasted an American single malt before this one—but I couldn’t get away from that pervasive pepper aroma. Worsening matters, white pepper has always had a strong barnyard funk to me, to the point where it takes me back to my formative years as an equestrian. This whiskey is smooth and decent on the palate, with a pleasant finish, but aroma-wise I’m turned off by it.
With the possible grain of salt me being a non-single malt drinker requires, I give it a score of 79 out of 100.
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