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-

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Barrell Rye Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Batch No 001

- $90
- 117 Proof
- 4 yrs., 6 mos.
- Region: Indiana & Tennessee

Barrell is one of the few "craft" whiskey companies that has really been able to take the world by storm. Their business model is a bit different, however, not only acknowledging the fact that they are a Non-Distilling Producer, or "NDP," but embracing it and marketing as such. They seem to take pride in transparency, and for this reason alone they have been a breath of fresh air.  Plus, it doesn't hurt when your sourced bourbons seem to frequently win awards and accolades.

I haven't yet gotten around to trying one of those bourbons, but I couldn't pass up their first rye release when it came out. Barrell products come with a somewhat steep price tag, relatively speaking, so it wasn't an automatic decision, but in the end it was one I was glad I made.

The nose, at first, was incredibly off-putting. When I first opened it up (and even on the next few pours) I got a strong whiff of ethanol singing my nose hairs (of which there are many). Eventually, however, that ethanol note disappeared, perhaps evaporated off, and other notes were able to come through, including natural cherry (as opposed to the cough syrup kind), even with a bit of tartness on the notes. It also had a more earthy, almond note to it. All and all, once that ethanol seemed to burn off, it smelled really good!

More importantly, though, even when that ethanol note was hanging around, this rye tasted amazing! It was sweet up front with a mild spice providing just enough kick to counterbalance the sweet. It was tones of molasses or brown sugar, balanced out by a Christmas-y cinnamon spice. It also had light pine notes and even a hint of dark fruits, like black cherry or plum. I couldn't quite place my thumb on it.

As this rye opened up, though, it became a caramel bomb. Pour after pour I found myself taking a sip and then licking my lips for a while before diving in for the next sip. The cinnamon spice still stuck around, but this was caramel all day, rounded out just a bit by those dark fruit notes.

This was Barrell's first foray into rye, and it was a great success! I loved everything about this rye (even despite the off-putting nose at first), and I would recommend this to anyone as a great example of a traditional rye. I certainly place this on par with Kentucky Owl Rye or even Michter's Toasted Barrel Rye, which I loved.

Their second batch is sourced in part from Poland, which has me intrigued. Given how good this one was, there's a real possibility I give that one a try as well.

Grade: A

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ancient Age Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $15
- 80 Proof
- Kentucky

I can't help myself. I'm an admitted fan and homer of Buffalo Trace's Mashbill #2, the same mashbill that's used to make some of my favorites: Elmer T. Lee, Rock Hill Farms and Blanton's, to name a few. So, I figured it was about time I give the bottom shelf Mashbill #2 product a try. After all, at only $15, I certainly had no fear of buyer's remorse.

On the nose I got that old familiar smell . . . bourbon. It was that traditional toffee and vanilla with a slight amount of cinnamon spice that I look for in my bourbon. It even had a little bit of cherry to it. This one hit on all points.

When I took a sip the first thing I noticed was the texture. Given that this is only 80 proof, it certainly wasn't a surprise, but this was very watery in texture. It's very thin and certainly did not need any ice.

The flavor, though, was everything I had expected. The cinnamon bit was noticeable right up front. I could feel it on the tip of my tongue. That gave way, though, to the sweet vanilla almost immediately, followed a few seconds later by the traditional toffee and caramel flavors.

At the back end it was more complex than expected. It had a slight orange peel tang or tartness to it, as well as a bit of a burnt sugar flavor which went really well with the orange peel, almost like an old fashioned.

As I made my way through this bottle, I didn't notice any discernible difference or change in the flavor profile. It remained consistent, albeit consistently good, so who am I to complain. This was no knock-your-socks off whiskey, but yet I found myself regularly going back to this bottle for a pour over others.

This is absolutely tasty for the price point. It's not full of complexity or richness. It doesn't have a velvety, oily mouthfeel to it. But it does have really good flavor, more complexity than expected, is readily available and only set me back $15.00. Considering I can't get Heaven Hill 6-Year Bottled In Bond with any sort of regularity, I think I may have found my new favorite bottom shelfer! This one gets a higher grade for bringing flavor at a very low price point.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Breckenridge Whiskey PX Sherry Cask Finish

- $65
- 90 Proof
- 3 years
- Batch No. 1
- Colorado

Sometimes my friends at work can be real assholes. Then other times they do things like buy me bottles of whiskey for my birthday, whiskey they know I haven't tried before. Such is the case with this particular bottle. I've had plenty that Breckenridge has to offer, but I never got around to trying this, that is until my buddy showed up in my office one day with the bottle in hand.

When we first cracked it open, both of us had a very hard time getting past the cloyingly sweet aroma that seemed to pour out of the bottle. It was like powdered sugar and artificial raspberry flavors. It was a bit much right from the start.

Hesitantly we went in for the first sip, expecting the sweetness in flavor to match the nose. I guess in this respect it didn't let us down. It is very sweet up front. The sherry cask influence here is anything but subtle. Rather it smacks you across the mouth with a sweet but tart raspberry flavor. To its credit, though, on the palate that raspberry comes across as more of a natural flavor.

The bottle eventually came home with me, and from time to time I would revisit it, hoping that a little bit of time and air would soften the harsh edges. While that did not prove to be the case, it did, nonetheless, improve a bit over time. Although the sharp, sweet and tart raspberry never went away, other flavors did manage to make their way in.

Vanilla and cinnamon started to come through a bit. The cinnamon was particularly noticeable on the back end, after each swallow, a sort of combatant with the sweet fruitiness and a welcome challenger. And the vanilla notes seemed to mellow it a bit. It also seemed to increase in dryness, as though the wood influence was finally coming through.

I wanted to like this. I really tried. Unfortunately it paled in comparison to its older, port-finished brother. I found it relegated to being my second or third pour of the night, rather than my first. It's possible that sherry finishes in bourbons just don't work for me, and perhaps they work for others, but for me, I think I'll stick to having my sherry finishes in my Scotch rather than my bourbon.

Don't let it be lost here, however, that it was nonetheless a very generous gift and I was glad I got to try it, even if my buddy is otherwise a bit of a turd (I say it because I know he'll eventually read this)!

Grade: C+

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Knob Creek Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Rye Binny's Selection Barrel #5969

- $45
- 115 Proof
- 5 years, 2 1/2 months
- Kentucky

When I first heard via the interwebs that Knob Creek was going to be doing private barrels of its rye, and at 115 proof, I had my eyes and ears open, looking for the first such bottle to make its way to my area. And this was it! I've expressed my love for Knob Creek store picks for a while now. They're always affordable, always good, and sometimes absolutely amazing. Though it cost a bit more than the regular Knob Creek bourbon store picks, I nonetheless had high hopes for this rye.

The nose was soft and subtle. I had to work a bit to get any notes, but what was there was sweet and spicy, just how I like my ryes! I got a heavy dose of brown sugar with some vanilla notes backing it. But there was also the slight scent of cloves, hearkening back to my high school days when smoking those things was cool (who am I kidding, they were never really cool).

I found the flavor, much like the nose, to be softer and more subtle than expected as well. Although the flavor wasn't bold, it was nonetheless very tasty. It had a lot of vanilla up front, rather than being brown sugar forward like I expected. It also had a kind of custard flavor, not like vanilla ice cream but rather it reminded me of custard pie from Baker's Square, one of their more underrated pies!

On the finish I got a light cinnamon note that I noticed at the back of my throat, as well as a bit of peppery spice that stuck on the tip of my tongue and seemed to linger for a bit.

As those spices faded, I was left with a nice minty note at the back of my throat that was unexpected and very enjoyable. It was a nice contract to cool my throat after the spiciness from the cinnamon and the black pepper.

I can't wait for more of these to come out. This one didn't blow my mind or anything like that. It might have had it been bolder in flavor. But, even with this one being somewhat muted in flavor, what flavor was there was absolutely delicious. It had a great balance of spicy and sweet, with a very enjoyable and complex finish. Even at five dollars more than the store pick bourbons, I still won't hesitate to grab these when they show up. I don't think I'll be able to go wrong with them.

Grade: B/B+

Saturday, March 24, 2018

High West American Prairie Reserve Blend of Straight Bourbons

- $50
- 92 Proof
- Batch No. 14H28-A
- Region: Utah (distilled in Indiana and Kentucky)

Just over a year ago I made my first pilgrimage over to the High West distillery in Utah. At the end of our tour, we saddled up to the bar and ordered our samples. Of course, I went with the "Reserve" flight which included their Valley Tan, Light Whiskey, Bourye, Midwinter's Night's Dram, and their American Prairie Reserve. The bartender informed us then that the American Prairie Reserve was no longer for sale in bottles and they had no plans to release it again. This was even more disappointing news Once I made my way through my flight and realized that the Reserve was the best of the bunch.

Then an odd thing happened. Back in the Chicago area, a batch of Reserve from 2014 managed to make its way to shelves. We first saw it at Warehouse Liquors. I picked up a bottle at a shop in Huntley. A bunch of bottles also sat on the shelf at the downtown Binny's for months. This glut of bottles appears to have dried up now, and who knows when I'll see it next, but I was thrilled to have gotten my hands on this bottle.

The American Prairie Reserve is a blend of 6 year old bourbon from MGP/LDI and 10 year old bourbon from Four Roses. As with High West's American Prairie Bourbon, High West donates 10% of profits from the sale of these bottles to the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana. Without even drinking it yet I already love this stuff.

But, the whiskey is damn good too!! On the nose I get a lot of corn and some light alcohol.  I also got something a bit savory, almost like peanut butter. It had a twist too, with some almond and cherry coming through. I loved the complexity of the nose and couldn't stop sniffing my glass.

On the palate the whiskey was sweet with nice, spicy cinnamon notes that I noticed at the back of my throat. The almond sort of tang, like amaretto, also carried forward from the nose, and it mixed with a delicious vanilla note that was present throughout. Toward the end it developed a sort of Honey Nut Cheerios flavor as well as a bit of a black cherry note. The cherry note was subtle, but there just enough to add an additional layer of flavor that seemed to counterbalance the corn or grain notes.

Although not super viscous, this whiskey was thick enough to coat the mouth and allow all these flavors to linger for quite a while. It had a lot going on but was still very approachable and drinkable.

I went into this one knowing I loved it, and I finished it off wishing I had more. I love just about everything that High West does, and this is one of my favorite things to come out of there.

Grade: A

Friday, March 9, 2018

Little Book The Easy Blended Whiskey

- $90
- 120.48 Proof
- Batch No. 1
- Region: Kentucky

As weird as it seems, for the first time I was excited for a release of a new blended whiskey, and I actually actively sought it out. Why? Because Little Book represents the first whiskey released by heir to the Jim Beam throne, Freddie Noe (son of Fred Noe and grandson of Booker Noe).

Little Book The Easy is a blend of a four-year-old bourbon, a thirteen-year-old corn whiskey, an approximately six-year-old straight rye whiskey, and an approximately six-year-old straight malt whiskey. The final product was then bottled at full proof, uncut and unfiltered. This is quite the blend, and it packs the biggest punch of any blended whiskey that I've ever had. Going in, this was the most curious I've been in a long time about a new whiskey.

Immediately the nose told me this was going to be a solid whiskey. It was pungent and full of aroma, loaded with brown sugar and molasses. It had some burn (expected given its proof) as well as a nice peppery spice that tickled the nose. I loved the way this whiskey smelled, and I found myself constantly sniffing my glass.

The flavor matched the nose very well, providing a nice mix of heat and sweet (kind of like what I like about mango habanero hot wings). The brown sugar from the nose carries forward to the palate and is certainly the dominant flavor here. It also has a significant amount of corn influence, giving it a sweet cereal flavor that reminded me a lot of Life cereal.

As expected from a Booker's spin-off of sorts, it has a decent amount of burn, but that burn is balanced out by the sweet brown sugar as well as a nice spicy cinnamon that kicks in about half way and lingers forever on the nice long finish. After each swallow I felt like I had just finished a Fireball candy with that sticky, sugary and spicy cinnamon still sticking around on my tongue and in the back of my throat.

Interestingly, in the first few pours I noticed the slightest hint of pine, just subtle enough to notice but not strong enough to stand out. In later pours this flavor really seemed to develop and became much more prominent. While it seems like it should mix well with the heavy cinnamon notes, here it just didn't seem to. Rather, the two flavors seemed to stand in contrast to one another, neither one being a bad flavor but neither one really working with the other either.

Overall, Freddie Noe has something good here, and I will certainly pick up the next expression he releases. This is a big, bold and flavorful blended whiskey the likes of which I've never had before. If all blended whiskeys were like this, they would be far more popular than they are.

Grade: B+