Saturday, April 25, 2015

Maker's 46 Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Being a regular drinker of Maker's Mark whenever I'm out and the selection is limited, I figured I owed a post devoted to Maker's 46, the big brother to standard Maker's Mark.

As you may have noticed, Maker's has begun a large ad campaign for Maker's 46, with commercials showing the charred oak staves being placed into the barrel in rows before the barrel is re-sealed. Certainly it's something a little different, and given my enjoyment of Maker's Mark productions (especially their cask strength bottling), it would seem to follow that Maker's 46 would be somewhere in my wheelhouse.

As expected, Maker's 46 carries the same flavor profile as regular Maker's Mark, only different. And by "different" I mean that it has more body and more complexity to it.

I enjoyed the nose a lot. It is sweet with a strong caramel scent, but it also has a hint of spice that made me salivate a bit at the anticipation of taking my first sip.

As noted, the flavor carries the familiar profile of Maker's Mark products. It is strong in vanilla and toffee flavors, with that light spice/tang (I can't quite put my finger on it) typical of wheaters. What really stands out in this bourbon, though, is the smokiness on its finish, something I really enjoyed in this one! It would make sense, considering their commercials, that the extra char from the additional oak staves would supply this additional smokey flavor.

After having the bottle open a while, the bourbon really took on a smokey vanilla flavor, again a flavor that I found particularly enjoyable (and perhaps smoked vanilla extract is a real thing that actually exists -- I may need to do some searching on the internet).

Overall, I enjoyed this as a somewhat more complex version of Maker's Mark. It wasn't over-the-top exceptional, but for a bourbon that is readily available and not excessively priced, I wouldn't hesitate to grab a bottle off the shelf in the future if the mood so suited me. I found I went through this bottle pretty quickly, which is always a good indicator.

Grade: B

Monday, April 13, 2015

Jim Beam Bonded Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Seeing this on the shelf, just to kill my curiosity I felt I should grab a bottle of Jim Beam Bonded (or "bottled-in-bond").  Because it's bonded, it has to be bottled at 100 proof, at least 4 yrs old, and produced in a single distilling season in a single distillery. Despite all these restrictions, I realized I was probably just grabbing a Jim Beam at a higher proof, but I had to see for myself. 

Even at 100 proof, I found the Bonded Beam to be generally sweet up front.  It had the standard vanilla, caramel and toffee flavors, Nothing really out of the ordinary in that respect. In traditional Beam style, it had a peppery spiciness on the back end. 

The texture was on the watery end, typical of lower end bourbons generally used for mixers rather than taken straight.  That being said, the flavor profile was right enough that I enjoyed it on its own just fine.

That being said, I likely wouldn't be grabbing for another any time soon.  Even at this price point, around $20, there are better bourbons to be had.  The higher proof, however, would make this a better mixing bourbon than standard Jim Beam, and if that's the purpose, then this would be the right bottle to grab.

Overall, it's just Jim Beam with a somewhat higher proof. 

Grade: C

Monday, April 6, 2015

Willett Family Estate 8 Year Single Barrel Rye Whiskey

I've tried the Willett Family Estate bourbons previously, but I had never had the opportunity to try one of their ryes. So, when I went to the store looking for something special and the clerk informed me they had the Willett 6 and 8-year ryes behind the counter, I had to give it a go.

Interestingly, it was a tougher choice between the 6 and the 8 than one would initially think. Aside from the age, the 8 year was not distilled by Willett, but rather sourced from MGP, whereas the 6 year was their own juice. Tough call to make, but I went with the 8 year for no particular reason at all, figuring I've had plenty of good, sourced whiskey--no reason to hold that against the 8-year.

While I didn't try the 6-year, I'm glad I made the choice I did, as this is hands-down the best rye I've ever tasted! At 117.6 proof, it certainly packs a punch, and the punch definitely hits you up front. But, just as quickly as it hits you, it fades to one of the most complex and tastiest whiskey's I've had in a long time.

This rye was the perfect blend of spice and sweet. Up front it had the traditional rye spice, with a black licorice note to it--pretty traditional in that respect.

However, that spice faded into a very sweet (like sweet corn kind of sweet), buttery and yet minty flavor that coated the mouth and throat. It may seem like a weird combination, but it tasted amazing, and it seemed to linger forever, making me yearn and salivate for the next sip.

As the bottle sat open for a bit, the alcohol burn seemed to fade a bit, and the combination of flavors seemed to blend a little better, becoming less distinct individually and taking on its own flavor that was very much like a not-as-sweet root beer. Interestingly, rather than up front, I noticed the black licorice flavor more on the back end as I got towards the end of the bottle.

Ultimately, I've had a nice run with the last couple bottles I've finished, as this is easily one of my top whiskey's ever. Unfortunately it's not one I'm likely to run across again, but I won't hesitate for a second to grab future Willett Family Estate ryes when I can find them.

Grade: A+

Friday, April 3, 2015

Knob Creek Single Barrel Gallenstein Family Private Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon

A friend of mine made a recent trip to Cincinnati, and while there he made a trip across the border into Kentucky to visit his favorite liquor store. He inquired as to whether there was anything in particular I wanted him to look for, and I just told him to grab something that I couldn't find here in Illinois.

And so, he came back with a private selection Knob Creek Single Barrel, along with a story about this particular bottle passed onto him by the owner of the store. The store he visited was Liquor City, owned by the Gallenstein family. In selecting this particular bottle, they had five different people go to the Jim Beam distillery to do a tasting of different barrels and vote on the ones they liked best. Among the different tastings, this particular barrel was the only one that received a unanimous "yes" vote.

Per my buddy, as relayed with him (so take this hearsay within hearsay for what it is), this particular barrel came from the seventh floor of a nine-floor rickhouse.  Despite that the bottle indicates it was aged 9 years, this particular bottling was aged 12 years.

Having had regular Knob Creek previously, I was eager to give it a go, but I wasn't exactly holding onto any high expectations.  Knob Creek has always come across to me as somewhat ordinary, lacking any complexity in flavor or boldness.  This, however, was unlike any Knob Creek I'd ever had before, and I could not have been more impressed.

The bourbon was very sweet, with the classic caramel and vanilla flavors. These flavors were so prominent, in fact, it was like dessert in a glass. Although it was high proof, it managed minimal burn, allowing the natural flavors of the whiskey to come through immediately and to linger long after the finish.

As I made my way through the bottle, I found that a slight cinnamon spice made its way up front, providing a flavor that was distinctively similar to one of my favorite drinks when I go out for burritos, horchata.

Whatever factors the fine people at Liquor City were considering when they were selecting this barrel could not have been more in line with my own tastes and preferences.  I found this bottle to be comparable with many high-end, high-proof bourbons I've tasted in the past, and at $35 (even though this was a gift), this was an absolute steal! I never thought I'd be giving a Knob Creek bottling as high a grade as I am, but it was truly that good, and such credit is due in this instance.

Grade: A+