Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Bar Review #17: The Brandy Library (New York City, USA) (Tasted #204-209)

Steph and I recently returned from a 3.5 week world trip, taking in (amongst other places) Scotland and the US. On a similar trip with my dad in 2009, I'd stumbled across a great little bar in New York City's Tribeca, Brandy Library, and was impressed with both their selection of whiskies and the friendliness (and knowledge) of the staff, not to mention their unique decor - very much a "library" of spirits.

Fast forward to 2015, and it turns out not only is Brandy Library still thriving, it also now boasts the the very capable, very knowledgable Marlon. Marlon (a good friend) previously lived in Hong Kong (where he ran The Whisky Library) and prior to that, Singapore (where he manned the bar at The (old) Auld Alliance). Quite the International man of whisk(e)y. Marlon moved to NY recently and it was great to catch up and share a few drams, and re-visit a favourite New York whisk(e)y bar.


Located in the heart of Tribeca (and literally across the road from the Ghostbusters Fire Station), Brandy Library is an intimate space offering a variety of spirits, but with a large focus on both brandy and whisk(e)y. The whiskey focus here is definitely American, but with an enviable selection of Scotch, Japanese and other whiskies, and an especially impressive selection of miniatures on display.

Most bars have the majority of spirits behind the bar, perhaps another cabinet or two for particularly well-stocked bars, and maybe (in the cases of bars like Sydney's The Baxter Inn, or Sydney/Melbourne's Eau de Vie) a separate room. At Brandy Library though, the spirits envelope the room, with the walls quite literally covered in rare bottles (and ladders for those hard-to-reach bottles, emphasising the "Library" aspect).




So...with an incredible selection of spirits from around the globe, where to start? Well we'd spent our time on this trip in Japan and Scotland already, so I figured it was time to really explore some American whiskies. Marlon was quick to suggest a custom "Librarian's Craft" flight, and who was I to argue?



Bernheim Original Small Batch Kentucky Straight Wheat Whisky (45% ABV, 7yo, Kentucky, USA)
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Colour: Orange gold.
Nose: Marmalade, cloves and some oaky spice. A little pepper.
Palate: More marmalade but even more spice and oak. Thin on the palate, but with a citrusy sweetness that makes it enjoyable to drink neat. Not overly complex and not likely to knock anyone's socks off, but a very sippable, enjoyable dram.
Finish: Short to medium, some oats.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.


Angel's Envy Port Finished Bourbon (43.3% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA)
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Colour: Red amber.
Nose: Sweet, rich berries. Not that far from a decent, somewhat sherried Scotch.
Palate: Roasted hazelnuts, spicy vanilla, and some toffee. A bourbon, yes, but a richer, more rounded one. Some raspberries round out the enjoyable if not overly complex palate.
Finish: Short and spicy - none of the port influence evidence on the nose or palate.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.


"The Spirit School Series" Bourbon bottled for Brandy Library by Prichards Distillery (44% ABV, NAS, Kentucky (distilled, matured) and Tennessee (further matured), USA)
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This was is an interesting one. The label states both "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky" and "Hand-bottled exclusively for Brandy Library by Prichards Distillery, Kelso Tennessee". A little digging reveals that whilst Prichards make much of their own whisky (and rum), this particular spirit is someone else's Bourbon (distillery unknown), and I believe has been re-barrelled for a time at Prichards in Tennessee before bottling.
Colour: Deep red amber.
Nose: Paprika and oak tempered with sweet, velvety caramel and burnt demerara sugar.
Palate: Huge spice, but herbal, vegetal. Creamy and syrupy mouthfeel.
Finish: Long with some sound cream and chives! Not expected, but welcome.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Who cares where it comes from, it's good whiskey!




Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co "Barterhouse" (45.1% ABV, 20yo, Kentucky, USA)
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There's been much written about Diageo's well (over?) hyped "Orhan Barrel" series, but the one line version is: Diageo "uncovered" a bunch of rare, old Bourbon casks at Stitzel-Weller in Louisville, Kentucky, and bottled them in Tullahoma, Tennessee (presumably at George Dickel). This is one of their first releases.
Colour: Bright gold.
Nose: Vanilla, toffee, some sugar but with orange peels and grapefruit.
Palate: Very spicy - could be confused for a rye, it it wasn't for the overwhelming sweetness - marshmallow, vanilla toffee and still some citrus notes, again, orange peels.
Finish: Medium length, spicy. Warming but slightly hot at the very end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.


Parker's Heritage Collection Original Batch Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey (63.4% ABV, 13yo, Kentucky, USA)
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Colour: Deep red copper.
Nose: Creamy pecan and pumpkin pie, without any cream or sugary sweetness.
Palate: Huge. Hot, spicy, almost no sweetness, but a touch of rich vanilla and sour lemon at the end.
Finish: Sour and hot, and very long. Sour to the very end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.




Jim Beam "Distiller's Masterpiece" Bourbon (50% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA)
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Now this was a surprise. I knew Jim Beam made a few rarer / older expressions (and I knew they were better than regular Jim Beam White Label, of course), but this was a huge delight. 10-12yo Jim Beam finished in PX Sherry Casks, bottled at 50% ABV? They even sold it at Dan's for a time!
Colour: Red copper.
Nose: Sweet American cherry (you know that flavour that's in everything? Yeah, a hint of that). Very, very sweet, but certainly not unpleasant.
Palate: Maple syrup, cherries, hints of oak and a touch of rye spiciness. Incredibly smooth throughout. Balancing that fine line between sweetness and spice, and managing to be incredibly smooth without feeling "thin" or watered-down.
Finish: Medium length with lots of red berries.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A winner. A bourbon I'd consider buying, even.



Brandy Library can be found at at 25 North Moore Street, New York, NY and is open:
  • Sunday through Wednesday 5 pm to 1 am
  • Thursday 4 pm to 2 am; and
  • Friday and Saturday 4 pm to 4 am
Go say hi to Marlon and the gang, and try some of the most interesting American whiskies you're likely to come across.

Cheers,
Maritn.

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