Monday, August 31, 2015

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2006 Vintage Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $30
- 86 Proof
- 11 years

Evan Williams Single Barrel is one of those bottles that I've seen on the shelves over and over again, but for one reason or another have grabbed something else.  Maybe the label just doesn't sell me well enough, or perhaps my mood just never moved me to grab it.  Whatever the reason, for some time it has been one of those bourbons that I knew was out there and I wanted to try, but kept putting off.

Well, it finally made it into my basket, home to my cabinet, and eventually into my glass.  Now don't get me wrong, I did not go into thinking that this is the next great bourbon or that it is something rare and special. As I noted, I've seen it everywhere.  What I was expecting, though, was a good, traditional bourbon, well-made and consistent through the last drop.  In that respect, I got exactly what I was expecting.

The nose is very soft, with no alcohol burn on the nostrils, but also with mild scents of caramel and vanilla.  There was nothing overpowering here, and I hoped that the bourbon itself would not come across as weak.

Luckily, there was nothing to be feared here. This is a very sweet bourbon, following the normal palate of flavors one would expect from a Kentucky Bourbon.  If anything, this one is heavier on the brown sugar notes than others, but still had those traditional vanilla and caramel flavors.  The vanilla, however, reminded me more of natural vanilla bean than usual, kind of like the difference between regular vanilla ice cream and vanilla bean ice cream.  Although subtle, the difference is noticeable and very enjoyable.

In my first few pours of this bourbon I noted on the back end a sour, acidic note that unfortunately followed the up-front sweetness and then lingered on the palate for a bit.  Because of how sweet this bourbon is on the front end, I was a bit surprised by the flavor on the back end.

However, about half-way through the bottle that sour, acidic note completely disappeared, allowing me to enjoy the bourbon flavors in full without the disappointment. The vanilla flavor seemed to grow stronger with each glass as well, but it never got to the point that it ruined the flavor. It just took on a different shade is all.

All in all, this is a good-but-not-great bourbon.  It is certainly well-above average, but doesn't do anything to stand out among the crowd, and my grade leaves it right there in that crowd of bourbons I've reviewed.

Grade: B

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $22
- 101 Proof

It seems odd to me to review the "everyday" bourbons that are out there, the ones that are found on the shelves of every grocery store, carry the smaller price tags and which most people have tried. Yet, at the same time, it also feels odd to me to not have reviewed these bourbons (at least to the extent I want this blog to be as comprehensive as possible). So, I figured in trying to deal with this dilemma, I'd error on the side of drinking and writing about more whiskey rather than less.

And so, I picked up a bottle of Wild Turkey 101. The one thing that is consistent with these "standards" is their flavor profile, and this was no exception. As expected, 101 offered the traditional vanilla and toffee notes that one would expect from such a large-production bottling. This one leans a bit more toward the spicy side however, a spiciness that somewhat sneaks up on you.

At 101 proof (as the name implies), there was some burn, but to me it was almost the perfect amount. I tend to favor the higher proofs, and this bourbon provides that higher proof, but at the low end of the high-proof-spectrum, so the burn was not invasive or over-powering.

As I made my way through the bottle, pour-by-pour, I did not notice any real change to the flavor, which remained completely consistent throughout. While I love it when a whiskey opens up, there's something to be said for one that remains consistent in its flavor throughout.

The traditional flavors, with the mildly high proof and the subtle spiciness makes this my go-to choice of the bourbon standards. This is a cheaper, readily available whiskey that I would be happy to sip on any given day. The grade I'm giving it is somewhat subjective one, as it is based somewhat upon how it compares to other standard bottlings (after all, it wouldn't exactly be fair to compare WT101 to George T. Stagg, for example).

Grade: B+

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Orphan Barrel Lost Prophet 22 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

I've started to notice a trend among these well-aged Orphan Barrel offerings--they are consistently dry bourbons with prominent wood overtones. Lost Prophet is a prime example, and, unfortunately, that's about all that this bourbon initially offered by way of a flavor profile.

The nose left much to be desired (and I'm one who generally enjoys the smell of my whiskey, even when the taste may not do much for me). It was strong in alcohol and wood and not much else.

On my first pour, the flavor matched the nose. Although the burn was minimal, the alcohol in this bourbon was very noticeable, and the dry, woody flavor did little to soften this alcohol flavor. Unlike most other bourbons, there was almost no sweetness to this bourbon, and I was looking for it. I tried to find some hints of vanilla, toffee, caramel, etc. buried in there somewhere, but it just came out harsh and bitter.

I did notice an almond flavor that seemed to somewhat parallel the woodiness, but this just wasn't enough to balance it out or make it very enjoyable. So, I put the cork back in and placed it back on the shelf, hoping it might open up a bit and perhaps soften the bitterness.

After leaving it on the shelf for a few weeks, I finally went back to the bottle and was pleasantly surprised!  The bitterness was pretty much completely gone.  The wood tones had balanced out, blending with a chocolate flavor that was completely unexpected.  After sitting on this for weeks in between pours, I found myself looking forward to the next.  This is one of the more striking changes in a bottle after it's been open a while that I've ever noticed.

Initially I was not a fan.  I had higher expectations after trying Barterhouse, and this one left me disappointed. However, after it was open for a bit and the bourbon likewise opened up, I found this to be a very good, well-aged bourbon with a great blend of sweet and savory that made me wanting more. This bourbon almost deserves two grades.  I'd give it an initial grade of C-, but a later grade of A-, which was the bulk of my pours. Accordingly, it ultimately receives a B+.

Grade: B+

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Glenmorangie 18 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Once again a reason to celebrate recently arose for me, and, as I so often do, I settled on a higher end bottle of Scotch that I normally wouldn't purchase absent good cause. In this instance, I went with the Glenmorangie 18 Year. I've loved past Glenmorangie bottlings, and I figured I couldn't really go wrong here.

In fact, I went very right! And I knew it was going to be good as soon as I opened the bottle.  I was hit with a great nose that reminded me of pipe tobacco and cloves. This was one of those bottles where I had to force myself to stop enjoying the smell so that I could pour my first glass.

At 86 proof, there is little to no alcohol burn to this Highland Scotch. The flavor reminded me of one of my favorite sandwiches growing up -- peanut butter and honey. It was complemented by a distinct orange flavor that blended very well with the others, giving this whisky both an earthy and fruity profile, and yet neither was too much in the extreme.

This whisky is very smooth and soft, coating the mouth and lingering long after each swallow. It had a prominent butterscotch flavor on the back end that allowed me to enjoy each sip long after I swallowed.

As I sipped more and more, and as I let the bottle rest a bit (though not for long and I couldn't help but go right back to it), additional wonderful flavors of brown sugar and pear came through, with the orange notes ever increasing in strength.

This is a phenomenal whiskey, one which truly made me sad as I watched that last drop hang on for dear life before finally relenting and falling into my glass to met its fate. Truly a bittersweet ending to a great bottle of whiskey. Glenmorangie is doing a lot of things right these days, and their 18 year old is no exception!

Grade: A