Friday, June 26, 2015

Old Weller Antique Kentucky Straight Bourbon


There has been a lot of hype around Weller 12 year, frequently referred to and promoted as the "Poor Man's Pappy."  Accordingly, with all the hype, the availability of Weller 12 has gone down and the price has gone up (although its availability has seen a relative surge recently).

Yet, Old Weller Antique (OWA) remains readily available and at a good price (not to mention a good proof at 107!!).  I grabbed a bottle of OWA to keep at my second office (another office where I frequently camp out when I don't want to head downtown).  So, It has taken me a very long time to finally make my way through this bottle.  It also explains the decorative cork board backdrop in the photo.

This made for a great at-work bottle, however.  I only found myself cracking into it after particularly long days, and OWA delivered each time.

It has a strong alcohol burn due to the high proof, and it has a spicy kick to it as well.  But, it's a wheater, so it also has that soft, graininess to it as well that provides an interesting dichotomy.

OWA keeps to the traditional caramel and vanilla flavors, though, and it makes for a very good, every day sipper.  Aside from the traditional notes, though, I couldn't help but notice a distinct apple flavor, something that really sets this bourbon aside from others.

After the bottle was open for a while, I expected it to smooth out a bit, but it didn't.  If anything, it became drier and a bit harsher on the throat.  It also took on an up-front citrus note that I wasn't expecting.  The caramel notes tended to transform to a more molasses meets licorice flavor as well.  It was one of those flavors where I just couldn't decide if I liked it or not.

All in all, this is not an overly complex bourbon, but I would still consider it more of a sipper than anything.  I wouldn't hesitate to go back to OWA in situations where my choices are otherwise limited.

Grade: B

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Jefferson's Ocean Aged at Sea Kentucky Straight Bourbon


Jefferson's Reserve has never shied away from trying new things with bourbon, and there was a ton of promotion for their ocean voyage releases. The general premise is that they took bourbon barrels and placed them on a bot to age as the boat traveled from port to port through some warmer climates. This would allow the bourbon to interact with the wood more and draw out some additional flavor.

I was very intrigued and eager to try one of these releases, and when I saw bottles of what Jefferson's called "Voyage No. 3" (or, in other words, batch #3), I felt it worth giving a shot.

On the first pour, I noticed primarily a caramel scent on the nose. There was something else to it, but I couldn't quite place my finger on it. That was until I took my first sip, and then it was unmistakable.

This bourbon is actually very briny. I didn't expect the salt from the ocean to make its way into the bourbon, but there is no question that's what happened here. The caramel flavors are also there, making it a salty/sweet bourbon. However, the saltiness is not exactly a good thing.

The brininess of this bourbon overwhelms, and it's very hard to get past that tangy, pickle-juice type flavor to really enjoy it. It's a shame, because, although it's faint, there were hints of some very yummy flavors, reminiscent of white chocolate covered pretzels. Those flavors were buried, though, and difficult to really enjoy.

After letting the bottle sit for a while before I went back to it (it wasn't exactly my first go-to when I wanted a drink), I did notice that the brininess had subdued a bit, but it still managed to overwhelm. Unfortunately, the sweet, salted caramel flavor of the bourbon likewise diminished some as well. It was more drinkable, but not necessarily more enjoyable.

Ultimately, I take this bourbon for what it is--an experiment. I've had great experience with Jefferson's traditional bourbons, and will continue to go back to that well, but this particular experiment, to me, is a bust.

Grade: C-

Friday, June 12, 2015

Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon


Four Roses Small Batch is one of those bourbons that I've had before, here and there, enjoying a glass at a bar or a pour from a friend's bottle. For one reason or another, though, I had never taken a bottle home from the store (although the Single Barrel has come home with me a number of times).

So I felt it was past time that I pick up a bottle and post my thoughts here. Going in I knew that I was getting a bourbon that wouldn't disappoint.  It has always been consistently good. Although it's a bit more watery than I prefer, it still holds up with strong vanilla and toffee notes.

Perhaps the most noticeable characteristic was that, even at only 90 proof, I found this bourbon to be particularly warming. It certainly had no alcohol burn, and went down very smoothly. Yet, it warmed my insides in a manner that I associate more with spiced rums or even some brandies.

That heat was balanced well by its sweetness, neither one being overly so. The sweet caramel tended to linger a while, which was very welcome considering the watery texture.

Ultimately, this is an inoffensive bourbon.  If I were looking to introduce someone to bourbon for the first time, this is a safe pour. It has all the characteristic traits of bourbon, is not very strong to one end of the flavor spectrum or the other, and is very drinkable.

Personally, I think the single barrel is a better bang for your buck as far as the Four Roses offerings go, and I can't wait to continue trying their different single barrel recipes. Nonetheless, this is still a quality bourbon at a relatively modest price.

Grade: B