Friday, December 13, 2019

W.B. Saffell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $50 (375 ml)
- 107 Proof
- Batch No. 1
- Kentucky

One thing I love about these little bottles is the way they feel in your hand. It makes you want to just shotgun the whole thing (as bad of an idea as that may be). They just feel good in your hand. The downside, of course, is how little liquid they hold. It’s like they hold half the amount of whiskey as a regular bottle! I really have a hard time getting on board with that. Bigger is always better.

That being said, I have heard really good things about this latest release in the Whiskey Barons collection coming out of Wild Turkey. It’s my understanding the Russells didn’t have a hand in the first two releases, but that they did have a hand in this one. Perhaps that’s what did the trick, I don’t know. But, I certainly wanted to find out for myself just how good this one is.

The nose on this one was really pungent, with strong notes of anise along with a peppery spice that provided a nice bite. I also got some dark cherry. A certain amount of tannic wood notes came through as well, which at times came across as more of a walnut note. It kind of smelled like what I’d expect Nick Offerman to smell like if he were a bourbon guy.

Interestingly, I found the flavor to be quite different from the nose. Instead of dark cherry and wood tones, I got something bright on the flavor, like fresh peach. It was sweet and even a bit tangy. It was balanced out by a kind of earthy, tea-like flavor as well.

It was on the sweeter side, but that sweetness was balanced out by a nice cinnamon spice (this is, after all, a Wild Turkey product), as well as the tangy flavor from that peach note. The pepper spices that were intermingled helped balance out that sweetness as well.

What did come through from the nose was that walnut note. This flavor was present throughout, from first pour to last and from front to back. It wasn’t strong, but it was always there. On later pours I noticed some orange peel or burnt orange notes. Those notes, along with everything else this had going on, seemed to blend into a sort of walnut Old Fashioned flavor, like a more earthy, less sweet version of the cocktail. I found I really liked it.

This is a product I certainly wouldn’t mind grabbing some more of. While it didn’t blow me away, it certainly would be the kind of whiskey that I would, from time to time, be in the mood for. It was very good, and I could see myself at some point down the road yearning specifically for another pour of this.

Grade: B+

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Knob Creek Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 14 1/2 years

- $40
- 120 Proof
- 14 1/2 Years
- Kentucky

I feel like every time I write a review on a Knob Creek store pick, I start it off by stating just what a great value these store picks are. And here I am doing it again. The fact that recently there seems to have been a flood of 13+ year old Knob Creeks hitting the market, at nearly full proof, and for only $40, has had me grabbing these left and right lately.  As I've said before, every Knob Creek pick I've had has been, at bottom, very good, and some of them have been absolutely great! That makes grabbing a 14 1/2 year old, almost full proof bourbon at $40 a no-brainer!

The nose on this was rich and bold, with anise and cherry mixing together, almost like an aperitif you'd get at a nice Italian restaurant. It also had a nice, spicy cinnamon note. The nose did have a bit of burn (to be expected given the proof), as well as a distinct wood note that carried a bit of bitterness with it.  That seemed to fade over time, however, and on later pours I noticed a bit of an apple pie note, with baked apples and baking spices coming through.

Upon taking my first sip, one of the first things I noticed was how easy it was to drink. Despite the high proof and the amount of alcohol I got on the nose, there was almost no alcohol in the flavor. It also had a nice, oily texture which might have helped with that and certainly carried the flavors to a nice, long and lingering finish.

It was very vanilla forward, like an unsweetened natural vanilla flavor. That mixed well with a healthy amount of dark chocolate, making this a very rich and decadent whiskey. I even got some peanut notes which only added to the richness.

On later pours, the vanilla seemed to dominate even more, but it also seemed to sweeten up a bit. I even got a light note of spearmint, kind of like what I get in some ryes. It worked really well with the heavy vanilla flavor.

This is one bottle that seemed to change a lot over time, because in later pours I got a distinct note of root beer. It's as though that heavy vanilla finally married with the other spices, the cinnamon and anise, to the final flavor that had me thinking of root beer. It was followed by a light note of black pepper spice, seemingly rounding it out.

While I nabbed this bottle because of its age (as well as the fact that I have a hard time passing up Knob Creek picks), ultimately, regardless of the age, this was a delicious bourbon. Once opened, I found myself repeatedly going back to the well on this one, and it was over with before I knew it.

Grade: A

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Blanton's Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel No. 067

- $60
- 93 Proof
- Barrel No. 067
- Kentucky

I bought this bottle just about a year ago, at a time when hype over Blanton's store picks was incredibly high (perhaps it still is, but since the demise of the Facebook secondary market, I really don't have my fingers on the pulse of such things).  I held onto it for quite a while until I put together a lineup of six different iterations of Blanton's.

Compared to its cousins, which included two Straight From the Barrels, a gold, a red, a black and another store pick, this one was easily one of the favorites. The only one that got as many top votes was the Blanton's Gold. It was unanimous, however, that Binny's had picked a great barrel with this one.

The nose on this had the traditional Batch #2 notes, with heavy doses of toffee and caramel leading the way. It also had a nice cinnamon flavor, and even a bit of black pepper. On top of that, though, what stood out with this one was a very familiar smell of cherry pie. I got notes not only of cherry, but also the warm, bready crust and a light, sugary sweetness.

As to the flavor, I feel like I could almost just say, "See notes above." The flavor really matched the nose, with caramel and brown sugar leading the way. It was rich and sweet up front, followed by a nice, light cinnamon finish.

It also had a nice vanilla undercurrent that at times had me thinking of candy corn, but not quite as sugary. That sweet vanilla was balanced out by the light peppery note on the back end.

But best of all, that cherry pie note from the nose was also present in the flavor, and it was delicious! Those baked cherry notes and pie crust flavors worked incredibly well with everything else that was going on in this whiskey, and it really made this an enjoyable dessert whiskey without getting too sweet.

While I really enjoyed the Blanton's tasting and will likely never do something quite like that again, I feel like I should have opened this one much sooner. This was a fantastic bourbon, and it was different from most other Blanton's I've had but in a delicious way! While I wished I had opened it sooner, I'm now sorry that it's gone.

Grade: A+

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

High West Yippee Ki-Yay Blended Rye Finished in Vermouth and Syrah Barrels - Batch No. 19C27

- $75
- 92 Proof
- Blend of 2 to 16 year whiskeys
- Batch No. 19C27
- Utah/Kentucky/Indiana

Who loves free whiskey?!? I know I’ve asked this question at the start of reviews in the past, but it really is one my most favoritest things in life! For my 40th birthday, a good friend of mine bought me this bottle of Yipee Ki-Yay. He’s in California, so he purchased it online through Binny’s, and I just got a text message to go pick up my bottle. Kind of nice walking into a liquor store, having them hand you a bottle of whiskey, and then just walking out!

For reference purposes, per High West's website, this is a blend of straight rye whiskeys aged from 2 to 16 years, as follows (though the ratios are a secret): 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP; 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley from Barton; and 80% Rye, 20% malted rye from High West Distillery.

I’ve reviewed this whiskey before, here, but that was over 3 ½ years ago, and it was Batch No. 1. I didn’t go back and look at that post until I finished this bottle (didn’t want to be influenced by it), but I did have a recollection of not being too fond of it when I tried it back then. I remembered the vermouth influence being not to my liking and that the whiskey was very sweet. I was curious as to how my impressions may have changed, or how the whiskey may have changed, over time.

On the nose I got a sort of blend of pepper, cinnamon and cherry. I’m sure the cherry came from the Syrah barrels. The nose was very strong—I could smell it from a couple feet away. I also got something with a bit of bite to it, like a strong anise note, stronger than I would have preferred.

The first thing I noticed when I poured my glass was the distinct red hue. For what it was worth, it looked really good. On the first sip, the first thing I noticed was a bright, but lightly bitter raspberry flavor. It was reminiscent of the sherry notes I’d pick up from sherried Scotches. Along with that bright raspberry note, however, was a sort of metallic note. I couldn’t quite place what it was, but it was kind of like that tin can flavor that tends to seep into canned foods. This was a bit off-putting.

The back end had that pepper spice I got from the nose, which was really enjoyable with the bright fruit notes. I also got a sort of cloves flavor that at times seemed to go between notes of cinnamon and notes of anise or black licorice.

It was not as sweet as I had remembered it being. That was the one thing that I recalled from the last time I had this whiskey, and it just wasn’t much of an issue this time around. Rather, I got a more dry quality from this. Part way through the bottle I was picking up notes of unsweetened peach tea. It had that sort of herbal or earthy flavor of the tea, along with the unsweetened fruit notes, almost like it was the “essence” of peach as some flavored waters might describe it.

I certainly think I like this better than I did the last time, though my grade, looking back now, is only slightly higher than the grade I gave to Batch No. 1. Perhaps I liked it more the first time than I realized, or perhaps I just don’t like this as much as I initially thought this time around. Either way, it’s a decent whiskey, but I’ll continue to lean toward other High West offerings.

Grade: B

Friday, November 22, 2019

Michter's Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey

- $60
- 86 Proof
- Batch NO. 19G1243
- Kentucky

I have really enjoyed the toasted barrel releases from Michter's.  I absolutely loved the toasted barrel rye, and the few times I've dried the toasted barrel finished bourbon, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.  So, when the opportunity came along to grab one of these, the toasted barrel sour mash whiskey, I didn't hesitate.

This is essentially a double barreled whiskey, much like many other brands are doing. With the rye, I felt it created another layer of flavor that softened the rye spice and added some earthy flavors that were really enjoyable. I assume by calling it "toasted," that that is in contrast to being charred. Perhaps that is intended to bring more woody notes and less sugars and vanillans into the whiskey. But really I have no idea what I'm talking about.

The nose on this one was a bit distinctive. I got a sharp, bitter but fresh note of orange peel. That bitterness was also accompanied by a sort of tannic note, kind of a woody bitterness. It also had a healthy amount of caramel, and overall it reminded me of an oaked old fashioned.

The flavor was much more fruity than the nose. This bourbon had a slight syrupy quality, which really carried the flavors from front to back and allowed them to linger for quite a while.  That texture, mixed with the fruity notes, reminded me a lot of maraschino cherries, again bringing me back to that old fashioned.

It really had that nice mixture of sweet, bitter and even a touch of savory. It had a constant undercurrent of brown sugar and a bit of yeast or bready flavor to it. It was a sort of cinnamon bread, but only lightly sweetened.

At times, though, sweeter notes would poke their head in, just long enough to say hello, and then they were gone. At times I got maple syrup, and at other times it was more of a burnt sugar note. It seemed to be changing from one pour to the next, but I think that is what I liked most about it.

Although it wasn't a vanilla or cinnamon "bomb," and while it wasn't my most favorite flavor profile, what I did love and appreciate about this whiskey was its complexity and the fact that with each sip I seemed to notice something different or seemed to get a different combination of flavors. Though it wasn't my favorite whiskey from a flavor standpoint, it certainly was one of the most interesting and one of the most fun whiskeys I've had in a while.

Grade: B

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Four Roses Single Barrel Warehouse Liquors Private Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon - OESV

- $75
- 121.2 Proof
- 9 years, 7 months
- Kentucky

A while back I attended a whiskey tasting at Warehouse Liquors in Chicago. It happened to be a tasting with Al Young, wherein we got to taste the 130 Anniversary Small Batch Limited Edition, the new Small Batch Select, and four new (at that time) Warehouse Liquors private selection single barrel picks. Needless to say, it was an incredible time, and among the private picks that we tasted that night, this was my favorite.

Before writing this blog, I looked back at my notes from that night to compare to my notes I took as I sipped my way through this bottle, months later.  At the time of the tasting, these were my notes:

It seemed to lean more towards traditional bourbon notes than the others did, with lots of caramel, a great, creamy, buttery texture, and a long, kettle corn finish. I absolutely loved this one and a bottle came home with me that night.

So, now that I got the chance to enjoy a full bottle before writing a review, here's what my notes reflect. The nose was all brown sugar and dark cherry, a great combination. It also had a bit of a chalkiness to the nose. I know that sounds more like a texture than an aroma, but it had that fourth grade classroom smell to it. There was also a definite cinnamon spice to it as well that tickled the nostrils a bit.

As to the flavor, brown sugar and cinnamon predominated. It also had a certain woody bitterness, combining into a sort of candied cinnamon stick flavor. Though the brown sugar was there, I did wish it were just a touch sweeter.

I also got a certain bitter bite, like an orange pith note. This, along with the cinnamon and wood, seemed to lead to a bit of an astringency quality. As I look back at my earlier notes, this was something I didn't notice then.

However, despite that astringency quality, there was still a lot to love about this bourbon. It also had notes of honey and graham cracker, giving it a sort of flaky apple pie crust type flavor. Any sweetness that came through, however, was always tempered. At times there was almost a sawdust note to it (perhaps that chalky note I got on the nose).

Ultimately, though, the wood and cinnamon were prominent throughout. As I made notes with each pour I tasted, I never got the creamy, buttery texture, nor did I get that long, kettle corn finish. In fact, I didn't love it nearly as much as I did that first time. Perhaps it was the atmosphere that contributed. In the end, this was still a really good, complex pour. With a little extra sweetness and a little less of that astringent quality, it would have been a great pour.

Grade: B

Sunday, November 10, 2019

High West Double Rye! Binny's Barrel Select Armagnac Finished Blended Rye

- $45
- 102.6 Proof
- Finished 1 yr., 8 mos.
- Barrel #112653
- Utah

I feel like it's been a while since I've seen bottles of High West Barrel Select, but when they do appear they seem to always do so in groups. Recently, Binny's got in a bunch of different barrel finishes, including bourbons and/or ryes finished in Syrah, brandy and Scotch barrels. What intrigued me most, however, was this particular bottle, finished in Armagnac barrels for over a year and a half.

I've recently had the pleasure of enjoying some well-aged Armagnacs, and I very much found them to my liking. I have no idea what barrels were used for aging this rye, but if that Armagnac tasted anything even close to what I tried, then the result of the aging should be pretty incredible.

The nose smelled like candied pear and baked apple. It had that crisp, fleshy fruit flavor, but also had that cooked brown sugar note as well. It smelled like a rich, decadent dessert.  This tells me that the Armagnac really influenced the whiskey, so I was already looking forward to tasting it. I also got some cinnamon and even a bit of pecan to balance the sweetness and to add just a touch of earthiness and even a light bitterness to round things out.  I could have sat there sniffing this whiskey forever.

The flavor really followed suit with the nose. I immediately got that strong pear note, along with the brown sugar. That sweet fruitiness was constant from the first pour to the last and definitely dominated. However, the rye spice wasn't overwhelmed. A spicy cinnamon note was also present from front to back and from first pour to last. The combination was a rich, dessert like cooked pear flavor that was so inviting.

In addition to those note, I also got a white wine note throughout. However, it wasn't like a sauvignon blanc, but was sweeter, like a Gewurztraminer or Riesling. It was definitely white-grapey, though.  That sweetness was a bit tampered by the tannins that came through as well, really driving home that wine note that I was getting.

Towards the end I found myself picking up other, unique notes. At times I got a dried apricot note that was a bit fleeting and I wished were more prominent, because it was delicious while it was there.  I also got a bit of a tangy note, kind of like an amaretto liqueur, out of the later pours. This just added to that baked, candied pear flavor that I was getting throughout.

I was so happy to find these again, and I was very excited to try something new, and this absolutely did it for me. Not only was it something different, but it absolutely delivered on flavor. I only wish I had more!

Grade: A