Saturday, August 4, 2018

Elijah Craig Small Batch Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon 2017 Batch No. C917

- $60
- 131.0 Proof
- 12 Years
- Batch No. C917
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles that I lucked into and simply couldn't hesitate to grab it off the shelf. I was just in my local grocery store and, on a whim, figured I'd check out the whiskey selection, and there was this bottle, and at more or less retail! The batch that was released prior to this one (B517) won all sorts of accolades, and I found it to be a superb whiskey when I had the chance to try it. So, I was looking forward to giving this one a go.

I managed not to crack it until just a few weeks ago when I hosted a whiskey tasting with a flight of various Elijah Craig offerings, including Elijah Craig Small Batch, a store select single barrel, the 2017 release of the 18 year single barrel, Release #11 of the Barrel Proof and this bottle. Although the results were close, this bottle came out as the favorite of the five among our group.

On the nose I got a nice, light amount of wood notes. It wasn't an oak bomb by any means, but just enough to appreciate it. Those wood notes seemed to go great with the cinnamon and heat that came off the top, blending well to an almost piney scent.

On the palate, it's immediately sweet and rich up front. That sweet richness really hides the alcohol, as the burn was minimal. Instead, my mouth was coated with almost syrupy liquid layering caramel and vanilla over a toasty, burnt sugar flavor that was amazing.

Almost as if to make sure it didn't come off as too sweet, the heat that I was expecting up front finally came through on the back end, adding a nice burn on the back of that caramel richness. However, eventually that heat subsided, as it usually does, and I was left with a lingering caramel note that just coated my entire mouth and throat.

On later pours other notes seemed to come through, working to complement the dominant caramel notes, with hints of orange peel and maraschino cherry coming through, reminding me of a less spicy old fashioned. Though these other flavors seemed almost fleeting, they offered a nice, subtle but vibrant note to go along with the delicious, rich (did I mention this whiskey is rich?) caramel, vanilla and burnt sugar tones.

All in all, this was a dessert bourbon if I ever had one. The mouthfeel was thick and viscous, the flavors were sweet and rich, the burn was even welcome to cut the sweetness, and in the end my mouth felt coated as though I had been eating soft caramels for the past hour. This bourbon was absolutely fantastic, and I loved it even more than the previous release, which itself was pretty spectacular!

Grade: A+

Friday, July 27, 2018

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Binny's Private Selection Barrel #6270 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $40
- 120 Proof
- 13 years, 6 months

Once again the Knob Creek private selection came through for me.  I've gone on and on in this blog about these store picks being one of the best values out there. You get a privately selected, single barrel bourbon, usually aged 9-11 years, and sometimes as long as 13 1/2 years such as this one, or even longer, at nearly barrel strength, and for a cool $40.00.  You can't go wrong in picking one of these up off the shelf, and this bottle proved to be no exception.

The nose was all brown sugar and caramel. It came across immediately as a sugar bomb, almost like those caramel lollipops, Sugar Daddies. It also had milk chocolate and even a slight peanut note to the nose at first. This developed some additional stone fruit notes later on, with almost a tart cherry pie quality to the nose. Certainly the way it smelled suggested the flavor was, at the least, going to be complex.

Not surprisingly, the brown sugar and caramel from the nose was spot on, and the first sip was like drinking a boozed up version of a Sugar Daddy. Given the age, I expected a bit of dryness on the back end, perhaps even to balance out that sweetness, but such wasn't the case. It has surprisingly little wood influence to it, only barely noticeable on the back end.

Initial pours had a light burn to them, but that is to be expected given the proof, and it was anything but offensive. In fact, it cut the sweetness a bit.  Eventually that burn faded, however, and in doing so improved this bourbon so much! While I thought the burn provided a nice balance, what I found was it was masking the rich, sweet flavors that were waiting to emerge in this bourbon.

At first I thought the alcohol burn provided a nice balance to the sweetness.  However, as the alcohol seemed to fade, the sweetness came forward in a big way, but not in a way that made it cloyingly sweet or anything. Rather, that caramel/brown sugar thing it had going developed more in richness than intensity, if that makes sense. 

Don't get me wrong, towards the end of this bottle this absolutely took on a dessert-like quality. However, it wasn't overly sweet, just richly sweet. I may be talking in circles here, but it's as though with each successive pour, the quality of the caramel improved, like it started with some generic, store-brand caramel and finished with high-end, melt-in-your-mouth-and-consume-your-world high end caramel from Godiva or whoever might make really awesome caramel.

This bourbon changed much more from first pour to last than anything else I've had in the past year or so. At first it was a very good bourbon.  The last pour was an absolutely amazing bourbon that made me wish I had a few bottles more.

Grade: A

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Jefferson's 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey

- $45
- 94 Proof
- 10 Years
- Batch No. 63
- Canada

Well-aged ryes seem to be harder and harder to come by, and Jefferson's rye, which is now out of production, seems to be a symbol of this trend. After all, this 10-year rye at one point offered a well-aged rye at a decent price=point.  Good luck finding this old of a rye at this price today. As was the case with this bottle, the only way to land one is on the secondary market.

Jefferson's is a non-distilling producer, or NDP, however, meaning they don't produce their own whiskey, but rather select and bottle whiskey sourced from other producers. This particular whiskey, which is a 100% rye mashbill, is sourced from Alberta Distillers in Canada (despite the very patriotic branding with the Jefferson name, the profile of Jefferson himself and the arch of stars half-circling him on the bottle).

Nonetheless, I was eager to try something that, in all likelihood, I'll never try again. Interestingly, as I opened this one up, I noticed that the cork was loose, as though it had contracted a bit. The bottle did not show signs of any evaporation, and as I pulled it off the bottom of the court made a tight seal. I did some very brief research on the web and found a few other mentions of this phenomenon. I'm not really sure what to make of it.

The nose is soft, almost floral in nature. It has hints of cinnamon and pine, but not necessarily the spice that usually accompanies those flavors. Just mild versions of those flavors, and with little to no burn.

On the palate, this whiskey is smooth and sweet. It primarily has notes of caramel and vanilla, but also has that pine flavor from the nose. The pine, though light, adds an interesting tang to the mix. Cinnamon comes in late on the back end, but while all the other flavors fade away, the cinnamon flavor seems to stick around forever.

As I made my way through this bottle, I found it to be incredibly easy to drink. It is certainly inoffensive, and delicious enough to keep me going right back to this bottle pour after pour. Later pours revealed the lightest of wood tones that weren't present initially. This turned that cinnamon flavor into more of an earthy note, like a cinnamon stick.

I also picked up a bot of orange peel in the mix. I didn't get this note all the time, but when I did notice it, it provided a welcome and delicious mix of sweet and bitter that had me wishing that it was just a bit more prevalent.

Overall, this was a relatively simple, yet delicious rye. I went into it with hopes that it would blow me away, and it didn't quite do that. Perhaps that's a bit unfair to set the bar that high, but I really had this hyped in my head that it was going to be spectacular, and while it was very good, I just wouldn't go that far.

Grade: B

Saturday, June 23, 2018

FEW Bourbon Whiskey

- $23/200 ml bottle
- 93 Proof
- < 4 years
- Batch 15-6
- Illinois

FEW bourbon, a local spirit that is not only on shelves everywhere, but also in nearly every venue, has simply not appealed to me. I first sampled it at the distillery maybe four to five years ago. While I enjoyed their rye a lot, I just didn't find anything to like about the bourbon. It had that flavor I get in young, craft bourbons so often--rotten apple. I can't seem to get away from it, and when it's there, it's all I notice.

A couple years ago I gave FEW bourbon another try at a bar. Again, I got that young, rotten apple taste, and I was turned off again. At Christmas, however, a friend gave me this 200 ml bottle. Figuring it's been a few (no pun intended) years now, and the whiskey should be more matured than when I last tasted it, I figured I'd give it another go.

Unfortunately, things haven't changed a whole lot. I was optimistic at first, as the nose was great.  I got some caramel and baked apple that were delicious together, along with cinnamon spice. The nose was soft, inoffensive and inviting.

When I went in for my first sip, even, I got brown sugar right up front. It was sweet and delicious. Unfortunately, it was closely followed by that not unfamiliar but completely unwelcome flavor of over-ripe apples that had turned brown. I wanted it to not be there so bad, but there it was, front and center.

I will say, it did seem to be tempered a bit compared to past experiences. It wasn't offensive, it just wasn't good. On the back end I got a bit of a piney note as well. It wasn't quite a Pine Sol flavor, but rather a muted car freshener flavor (or at least what I assume one of those car fresheners would taste like if I ever ate one).

This bottle was good for two solid pours. On the second pour, I noticed a peanut flavor as well. This new flavor wasn't bad, but was just odd when mixed with the other odd, not-so-great flavors of this bourbon.

I wanted this bourbon to be good. I really did. But, I think I may be done giving it a chance. It's a shame that I just can't bring myself to like it.  I think I'll just stick to their ryes from here on out, which they do very well.

Grade: D+

Monday, June 4, 2018

Eagle Rare Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Barrel #061

- $35
- 90 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel #061
- Kentucky

Oh how I do love me some Eagle Rare. I heard about this particular release from one of the various bourbon groups I belong to on Facebook. I saw a message there that Binny's had just released two new Eagle Rare barrel picks. I first texted my friends to let them know (because sharing is caring), and then I was at my local Binny's five minutes later. I wasn't the only one with this idea, either, as two other people walked in immediately ahead of me asking for the same thing.

On the nose it has that old, familiar eagle rare scent. It's got a bunch of cinnamon and vanilla, making for a nice, sweet but spicy aroma. Caramel and even a fruity note come through on the nose as well, like candied cherries.

The flavor surprised me a bit, though, particularly after that nose. I fully expected to also taste the same old Eagle Rare. This had a little something more to it, though, that I loved. It still had that familiar cinnamon spice to it. The vanilla was certainly there as well, providing that stable foundation for all the other flavors.

However, what I really found myself enjoying was a nice, chocolate note. IT wasn't the bitter dark chocolate note that I sometimes get, but it wasn't sweet, milk chocolate either. It found a nice, comfortable spot right about halfway between the two, and it was great!

Unfortunately, about halfway through the bottle that chocolate flavor that I was loving seemed to fade away. Granted, other tasty flavors took its place, including some sweet caramel notes as well as a sort of graham cracker-y note. It still drank on the sweeter end, like a dessert bourbon, and it still had that great cinnamon spice to it, but I missed that early chocolate note.

I think it transformed, to some degree, developing not only those caramel and graham cracker characteristics, but also a delicious dark cherry note. That note had a little bit to it, almost a sour cherry (sounds weird in a bourbon, I know, but it was actually pretty good). 

Overall, this was a fantastic bourbon, one that had me wishing I had grabbed a second bottle. It's also one of the few bottles where I enjoyed it more at the start than I did at the end. I really loved that chocolate note with the spice, and I just wish it hadn't faded away. Still completely delicious, though

Grade: A-

Monday, May 28, 2018

Weller Antique 107 Binny's Private Selection Batch 3 (NCF) Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $26
- 107 Proof
- Region: Kentucky

Weller products have developed a sort of demand that I never thought I'd see. It's gotten to the point that even Weller Special Reserve, previously a low-mid shelfer, is now high in demand, low in availability, and commanding prices on the secondary that are borderline absurd. So, while a few years ago I might not have been so eager to get my hands on a bottle like this, when the opportunity presented itself a few months back, I found myself not thinking twice about grabbing a private select, non-chill filtered Weller Antique.

Don't get me wrong, I happen to like Weller Antique. While I tend to favor high-rye bourbons over wheaters, this one has always been one of my favorites. And the price is an absolute steal for any Weller private selection.  I'm more or less just commenting on the fact that not too long ago this would have just been another decent find, not some special bottle they kept in the back.

The best part about getting it at retail, though, is it makes it really easy to crack it open and drink it as an every day pour, and so I did! The nose on this is very good. It's a mix of cinnamon and a slightly sweet cereal. I couldn't help but think of Life cereal. I also noticed a nice caramel scent on the nose. It certainly smelled sweet, but not cloyingly so.

Its flavor matched that light sweetness, too.  It was primarily vanilla and caramel, with a light amount of heat to balance out that sweetness. It also had a slight anise flavor that added a bit of a tang somewhere right in the middle.

The sweetness on this lingered for quite a while, leaving me smacking my lips and looking forward to each next sip. And yet it was never too sweet.  It even seemed to develop a sort of a sweet coffee flavor, like a caramel machiatto.  Not one of those super-sweet Starbucks kind, but a real caramel machiatto that is somewhat sweet, but also roasty and bitter. It was a nice touch on the back end that gave it a sort of richness and complexity that made it more than just a sweet wheated bourbon.

This was very tasty and incredibly easy to drink.  Perhaps too easy.  I found myself getting to the bottom of this bottle more quickly than I had intended.  But I just couldn't help but keep going back to this one. It was just that good! And the price gave me no regrets!

Grade: A

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Warehouse Liquors Private Selection Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $60
- 101 Proof
- Barrel No. 091
- Kentucky

So, typically I'll post a picture of my empty bottle when I'm done with one. After all, I don't review anything until I've at least given it a bottle's worth of a try, rather than just a single pour. With this particular bottle, however, due to a late night on my front porch with my neighbors, the empty seems to have gone missing. Odds are it ended up in my neighbor's recycling bin as part of our late night clean up efforts. In any event, I just don't have my typical empty bottle picture for this post. So, I used a nice picture of a half empty bottle I found on the internet.

I've never had Kentucky Spirit before, so maybe it's unfair that my first bottle is a store pick. That being said, perhaps I ran the risk of loving it more than necessary, as Warehouse Liquors has made some absolutely incredible private picks in the past. Nonetheless, having tried most all of the regulars from Wild Turkey, I was excited to finally give this one a go.

This whiskey smells great. It has a bunch of cinnamon on top of a consistent layer of vanilla. However, it has that familiar Wild Turkey funk to it, a slightly musty or tobacco flavored scent to it that is familiar and inviting. Although I've only had the cereal a couple times, I couldn't help but be reminded of Cinnamon Frosted Flakes with each whiff I took.

On the palate, in addition to the cinnamon and vanilla that I expected, the first flavor I noticed was a distinct almond flavor, like an amaretto liquor. That flavor seemed to go perfectly with the cinnamon to give this whiskey a nice bite, different from the alcohol bite you get from higher proof whiskeys. This was more of a tangy bite.  It also had a bit of a piney quality that added a bit of earthiness to it, the kind of earthiness I tend to associate with Wild Turkey products.

The cinnamon is also not the typical sharp cinnamon of a rye or even a high rye bourbon. Even that had a certain dank or musty quality to it. Nonetheless, overall this is a sweeter product than most Wild Turkey products I've had. Despite all the earthy qualities, it also has a sweet, honey like quality to it that seemed to balance everything out with the perfect amount of sweet, spicy and savory in each sip.

Once again Warehouse Liquors made a fantastic pick, and I only wish I had more. This whiskey ran the gamut of flavors, and yet it did so on a very well-balanced manner.  I only wish I had my empty bottle shot as a memento.

Grade: A-