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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Blaum Bros. 5 Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Cognac Puncheon

VITALS:
- $80
- 108
- 5 yrs.
- Illinois

I do love Blaum Bros. distillery. Of course their sourced product, Old Fangled Knotter Bourbon, was absolutely phenomenal bourbon.  Unfortunately, much of that is long gone. I have also enjoyed their ryes, and I do make it a point to support local distilleries.

So, when I was offered an 5 year age-stated bourbon from Blaum Bros. that was finished in Cognac casks, I really couldn't turn it down, even if it was a bit steep at $80.  I can't help it, I'm a sucker for those Cognac finishes in the first place, and I definitely wanted to give their Blaum Bros.' bourbon another try now that it has more age on it.

The nose had a certain woody and nutty note to it. It was like caramel and chocolate covered oak, with some peanut thrown in. Kind of like a Snickers, but instead of nougat it was a soft and chewable wood.  Okay, I'm stretching here, but it didn't really provide the fruit notes I expected from the Cognac, but rather seemed to come across as tannic with hints of sweet caramel and chocolate.

As to the flavor, it came across as a bit young and corn-forward.  The corn notes were inescapable and they provided for some sharp, rough edges on top of making it come across as hot.  The sweetness inside came across as a brown sugar note, and there was a bit of green apple underscoring everything.

The Cognac notes did come through here, where they were missing on the nose. Along with that green apple, I got some quite delicious notes of pear and melon. There was also a creamy vanilla note that accompanied these flavors.  Unfortunately, they didn't seem to match up very well with the brown sugar and corn notes I was getting right up front.

On the finish the brown sugar note seemed to last the longest. However, it was here that I got a mild, but off-putting tannic note adding a bit of bitterness that seemed to linger for a bit on the sides of my tongue.  

This was not my favorite offering from Blaum Bros. Whatever they were going for just never seemed to materialize. I'm all for the experimentation, though, and I hope they keep putting out new and interesting releases such as this.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Four Roses Single Barrel Binny's Private Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon - OBSK

VITALS:
- $90
- 110.6 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel No. 10-2Q
- Kentucky

Recently Binny's got a couple rounds of Four Roses private picks in, with some having more age than others. While the price on these has gone up, and while it's become harder to find them with anything over 10 years of age, I've found that the quality of the bourbon inside has not changed. $90 does seem a little steep, but I was still willing to pay it for a 10 year, cask strength, age stated single barrel that was a known commodity.

I've had and reviewed all ten Four Roses recipes on this blog, so now I'm re-treading, and it's fun to look back at what I thought of this recipe the first time around. With respect to the OBSK recipe, however, it might not be a fair comparison, as that one was a gift shop exclusive selected by Brent Elliott. That one almost had to be really good as a matter of course.

The nose on this one was incredibly rich and sweet. I got delicious soft caramel notes as well as a rich chocolate note that made for a great combination. It also had a sort of bite to it, almost like an amaretto liqueur. There was also a sort of baked good notes, like the smell of a pecan pie baking in the oven. I could tell just from the smell that this was a great barrel!

The flavor was right in my wheelhouse as well.  Right up front I got all those great, sweet and rich notes of caramel and chocolate, as well as a bit of cinnamon heat. It tasted like some specialty chocolate treat you'd get at a sweets shop.

As more flavors seemed to come out, while I didn't necessarily get the pecan pie I got on the nose, it still came pretty close. I got a distinct candied pecan note, sweet and nutty. It didn't really come across as baked goods like a pie, but that was just fine by me, as this was delicious. The cinnamon even started to take on more of a cloves note, seemingly ramping up the richness.

The finish reminded me very much of an old fashioned. It was here that I got a rich cherry note that seemed to linger, along with a bright but slightly bitter note of orange peel. It still kept that spiciness as well, with the cinnamon notes providing heat long after I had swallowed.

I'm so glad I went back to this recipe, as this was one of my favorite Four Roses single barrels I can recall having. I can't wait for the next one now!

Grade: A

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $17
- 90 Proof
- 36 mos.
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles where I was way more excited to have found it than I really should have been.  After all, this is just a very young, somewhat low proof mashbill #2 from Buffalo Trace.  I've had other bourbons from this mashbill hundreds of times, and while I do love this mashbill, I really can't say that a 3 year old version was ever something I felt I really needed to try.

Yet, I was excited to come across this bottle for two very simple reasons. First, I can't find it in Illinois. I'm not sure of the distributional footprint on Ancient Ancient Age, but it does not include Illinois, and I've never seen it in any of the neighboring states on my travels. Second, it's only $17!!  I had to try it for that reason alone. After all, what if it's somehow amazing and I need to be stocking up every chance I get?  Probably not, but you never know.

My first impression of the nose was that it smelled young.  It came across as sharp and biting, with a certain vegetal quality that I liken to young whiskeys. However, it also had a good amount of brown sugar and cinnamon, and it came across as almost like a cinnamon sugar cookie. It had something a bit more earthy as well, almost leather-like. 

The flavor was a bit better than expected. While it still comes across as young, it lacked those rough edges that I was getting on the nose. It came across as softer and more cohesive. It was, however, certainly corn-forward, and as a result, was very sweet. 

I definitely got that sugar cookie note that I got on the nose, but in this instance the vanilla really seemed to come forward more. There was also a sweetness that took the form of a honey note, which, as far as sweet notes in whiskey go, I like the lean towards honey rather than cane sugar.

The sweetness carried through on the finish, but there a bit of a cinnamon bite came out as well. That vanilla note seemed to coat my mouth and the back of my throat as well for a nice finishing combo.

This bourbon was young, no question. However, it didn't get to the point where it tasted too young, if that makes sense. It wasn't offensively young, and the young qualities weren't off-putting. But, despite the price, I think I'd look for other options on the shelf.

Grade: C+

Monday, August 1, 2022

Jack Daniel's Triple Mash Bottled-In-Bond Blended Straight Whiskey

VITALS:

- $35
- 100 Proof
- 4 years
- Tennessee

When Jack Daniel's initially released two no bottled-in-bond expressions -- it's standard whiskey and this Triple Mash -- I didn't initially pick up both. Rather, I grabbed the standard expression and a friend of mined picked up the Triple Mash. It made sense, as we had planned that evening to then try them together.  At the time I enjoyed my pour of Triple Mash, and decided, for the price, I should go ahead and pick one up for myself.

But, by then they had all been cleared from the shelves. After a few weeks, the standard bottled-in-bond release began re-emerging on the shelves, and I thought that I had missed out on my one chance at getting the Triple Mash.  Patience is a virtue, as they say, and eventually while making a side-trip down the liquor aisle at Jewel, I was surprised to find it sitting on the shelf. So into the cart it went.

This "triple mash" is a blend of American malt whiskey, rye whiskey and Tennessee whiskey. So, given the presence of sweet malt as well as the sweet Tennessee whiskey, I was not at all surprised that the aroma was as sweet as expected. It was full of creamy, boozy caramel notes, with some light chocolate and even a bit of a bready note. The boozy note was a bit of a surprise, though, as this is certainly not a burner.

The flavor likewise matched my expressions. It had that sweet caramel note backed by a bit of a chocolate note. This was the backbone of this whiskey and lent to a sweeter profile. There was also a bit of a nutty quality, but a softer, sweeter note, kind of like a cashew note.

The rye did come through a bit, but it was somewhat muted. I got notes of cinnamon, but without any sweetness or any spicy kick. From the malt I did get a bit of a doughy, pastry like note, and the two combined reminded me of cinnamon rolls but without frosting. 

The one thing I found interesting, though, and which I didn't particularly enjoy, is that this came across as a young whiskey. It had that green apple type note to it that I often find in young, craft whiskeys that were bottled too soon. I don't know if it's one particular mash that resulted in this young note (my money would be on the American malt, if so), but that young quality, matched with the heightened sweetness of this whiskey, just didn't work for me all that much.

Friends have really enjoyed this bottle, in fact raved about it, and on my first pour I thought I really liked this new release. But, having sat with it for a while and gotten to know it, it's just not really for me. There's a real possibility I'm in the minority here. 

Grade: C+

Monday, July 25, 2022

Starlight Distillery Huber's Old Rickhouse Binny's Private Select Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Finished in Calvados Barrels

VITALS:
- $80
- 104.6 Proof
- 4.5 yrs
- Barrel No. 21-2128
- Indiana

Starlight has become one of those distilleries where I feel the need to grab just about any store pick that I see on the shelves. It has certainly become one of my go-to's for store picks. So, if I find myself in a random, unfamiliar liquor store and I'm trying to decide what, if anything, I want to grab, if Starlight is an option it's going in my basket.  Granted, I haven't really run into this scenario yet, but it kind of seems inevitable.

While it's certainly not an unfamiliar store to me, this particular single barrel rye from Binny's was finished in Calvados barrels. I've found that I generally like those brandy, Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados finishes, often imparting a variety of fruity notes, and in some instances certain nutty notes, that seem to really compliment the whiskey well.  So, this was an easy choice for me in bringing this bottle home.

The nose was interesting. I got a base layer of caramel, not unexpectedly, but I also got a decent amount of oak on the nose. That was surprising given the age. I also got a rich, dark chocolate note. And, instead of the brighter apple or pear notes I expected from the Calvados influence, I got a distinct fennel note. I honestly wasn't sure if I liked it or not, but I did find it intriguing.

The flavor provided much more in the way of rye influence. I got that healthy rye spice, with notes of dill and mint, and some cinnamon. Of course it had that layer of caramel, and even that dark chocolate I was getting on the nose came through.

This was, however, certainly a sweeter rye, and I think that's where the Calvados influence really came in. I didn't get a lot of fruit-forward notes, but I did get a sweet nougat note. In fact, that was one of the more dominant flavors in this bottle. Aside from that, I also got some nutmeg, and, while it wasn't as noticeable as it was on the nose, I definitely got that fennel note.

Where it was most noticeable was on the finish. That fennel note seemed to stick around, somewhere in the background, behind the notes of caramel and rye spice that also lingered. 

While I certainly enjoyed this bottle, it wasn't my favorite Starlight pick. It came across as somewhat odd, with some misplaced flavors that never seemed to completely connect. I liked it, but it fell flat in comparison to some of the other amazing single barrels I've had from Starlight.

Grade: B

Monday, July 18, 2022

Fox & Oden Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch 3

VITALS:

- $80
- 99 Proof
- 8-15 years
- Batch No. 3
- Indiana

I knew nothing about this bottle when it hit the shelves around here, and I hadn't even heard of Fox & Oden. Perhaps that's because the first two batches were Michigan-only releases.  I'm not sure if that's due to distribution issues or by choice, but it is what it is. Not only was this a new product on the shelves, but it's a 8-15 year blend of MGP bourbon. While the bottle does not indicate the percentages of the blend, I was still intrigued at the age on this whiskey.

I did some preliminary research, and the reviews all seemed positive, so, my interest piqued, I decided to go ahead and grab a bottle and give it a try. On the first sip, I knew it was a good bottle and I was satisfied with my purchase. After a few weeks, though, this bottle really opened up and turned into something fantastic, something that I couldn't keep my paws off of!

The nose carried all of those traditional bourbon notes, with rich vanilla and sweet caramel. It had a bit of a dark cherry note as well, though it was subtle. There was also an herbal note that stood out. I couldn't quite place my finger on what it is I was getting, but it was almost like thyme. It sounds weird, but I actually really enjoyed that note.

The flavor was a great combination of sweet and spice. The sweet came in the form of salted caramel and vanilla bean. That vanilla been really seemed to come forward more and more the longer this bottle remained open. I even got notes of milk chocolate, again which became more noticeable the longer this bottle was open.

The spice was very much a cinnamon stick type of spice. It wasn't sweet like cinnamon candy, and it didn't have that peppery spice that I get. Rather, it was more of a woody type of cinnamon spice that went perfectly with those sweet notes. There was even a peanut note to it, giving this all the makings of a great candy bar.

The finish seemed to re-focus on that vanilla bean note. It was a rich and almost velvety note that seemed to stick around in my mouth and the back of my throat forever. The cinnamon was there, but it was more subtle, and towards the end of the bottle the sweet caramel seemed to stick around for a bit more at the back of my throat.

If I graded this whiskey based on the first few pours, it probably would have been around a B+.  But, this is one of those bottles where it just kept getting better and better. The last half of this bottle was gone before I knew it, because I found myself just not wanting to drink anything else. This was an absolute surprise of a bottle, and I'm glad I decided to give it a go!

Grade: A

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Starlight Distillery Huber's Rickhouse Select Gift Shop Exclusive Single Barrel Indiana Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $60
- 114.6 Proof
- 4.5 years
- Barrel No. 16121
- Indiana

I certainly consider myself a fan of Starlight Distillery. I was introduced to them about four years ago, back when they had an ugly and very unassuming label, one that had never attracted my attention. But, on recommendation, I gave one of their single barrel ryes a try and thought it was absolutely delicious! Now they have all sorts of SKUs on the shelves and a pretty robust private barrel program out of which have come some absolutely incredible bottles of whiskey.

So, when I finally got the chance to visit the distillery and Huber's farm on my way back from Louisville a couple Summers ago, I went with the intention of buying whatever gift shop exclusive single barrels they had available. This is the last of what I purchased, sadly. But, on the brighter side, it gives me reason to make my way back there soon!

The nose was certainly more traditional, in that I got notes of vanilla and caramel or even burnt sugar right up front. It did have a bit of a cinnamon spice, perhaps at times more of a black pepper spice. There was also a bit of a wood note, but not really that deep oak note. It was more like the smell of fresh cut wood.

The flavor was good, albeit not very complex. It was caramel forward, but also had a significant amount of that burnt sugar flavor I got off the nose. There was a certain nutty quality to it as well, kind of like walnut, even with the slightly bitter parts from the shell.

On the finish the black pepper seemed to come through more, overtaking any cinnamon spice. I wouldn't have described this as a "spicy" bourbon until I got to that finish. It also had a good amount of brown sugar on the finish, as well as a light walnut note that lingered for a bit.

All the flavors were good, but it just came across as somewhat simple. I would have loved for the vanilla I got on the nose to come through in the flavor, or for some fruit-forward notes. But, I still enjoyed what was there, and once I opened it the bottle still wasn't long for this world.

Grade: B