Thursday, November 26, 2015

Redemption Rye Whiskey

- $28
- 92 Proof
- < 4 years
- Indiana

Although I try my best to ignore it, sometimes I can't help but notice that oddly shaped or different bottle sitting on the shelves. Perhaps that's why I've always been aware of Redemption Rye but have never actually tried it. It's tall, slender bottle makes it both literally and figuratively stand out from all the other whiskeys. Up until now, though, it hadn't quite been enough to cause me to pluck a bottle off the shelf.

I went to my local liquor store looking for a relatively inexpensive bottle for the night, and I had rye on my mind. So, it was finally time to give Redemption Rye a chance. Bottled by Bardstown Barrel Selections, but distilled by MGP in Indiana, Redemption is a high-rye rye, with a mashbill consisting of 95% rye.

The nose gave off the traditional rye spice aromas, with a bit of a cloves scent as well. It's a 92 proof rye, so the alcohol was not strong on the nose.

The most noticeable thing upon first sipping this whiskey is its sweetness. It has a strong brown sugar flavor up front, which was unexpected and shocked the palate a bit. That overly-sweet flavor, though, gave way pretty quickly to the rye spice. That first sip was very tasty and really warmed the chest. My immediate impression was that for an inexpensive, young rye (only aged "Less Than 4 Years"), this was a pretty decent whiskey.

As I worked my way through this bottle, I remained impressed with the flavor of such a young whiskey. It had no alcohol heat, but plenty of spice. The more I drank, the more the cinnamon tones came through. At one point the cinnamon seemed to come on so strong I likened it to chewing on a cinnamon stick. It was that same kind of woody, cinnamon flavor that permeated the whiskey, forcing the brown sugar aside. 

I enjoyed this bottle from beginning to end, even as it evolved the way it did. It started off very sweet, and it ended very spicy, but it remained a very tasty and flavorful rye throughout. Although it was not complex, and although it came across a bit watery in texture, this was nonetheless a very enjoyable rye and a good value.

Not to editorialize, but it's been my experience that many distilleries, including young, upstart craft distilleries, are able to make good rye whiskeys. It's making a "great" rye, however, that appears to be elusive. Redemption falls into the former category of good ryes produced by smaller companies (or, at least, sourced by smaller companies). I can't say for certain I'd go to the store again with the intention of grabbing a bottle, but if I found myself at a bar where Redemption is an option, there's a good chance it could end up in my glass.

Grade: B

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Orphan Barrel Forged Oak 15 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Forged Oak is the latest of the Orphan Barrel bourbons to grace my glass, and perhaps the last of what's been released to date (unless I stumble into some Rhetoric). Interestingly, it's the youngest that I've tried to date, and it is my favorite.

Possibly due in large part to the younger age, this bourbon, despite its name, does not have the same wood and tannic flavors that the other Orphan Barrel releases all shared. Yet, it didn't come across as an overly sweet bourbon either. Rather, Forged Oak found a very nice place in between, and I found myself really enjoying it (perhaps too much at times).

At first it came across just as a typical, drinkable bourbon, reminding me of a "chewier" Bonded Beam. Mild vanilla and walnut flavors were noticeable, with a light brown sugar sweetness. Accordingly, the first poor left me unimpressed, particularly given the price.

However, after that first pour, it was a few weeks before I went back to the bottle, and when I did, I found a much different bourbon. This time around very strong vanilla and almond flavors were prominent. The bourbon had sweetened up significantly, and it reminded me of Amaretto liqueur. It didn't taste like the liqueur, though. It just reminded me of it, and I happen to like the flavor.

It comes in at 90.5 proof, so it's a relatively inoffensive bourbon, and after shelving it for a couple weeks following the first pour, I then went through the bottle relatively quickly. After each glass I just wanted another.

It's not that rare of a whiskey, despite the marketing efforts of Diageo to make you think otherwise. After all, this bottle was #23,951, and I'm not sure just how high those numbers go. Whether the price is justified by the juice, I'm not entirely certain.  

However, measuring the bourbon itself, I thought it was very good and held up well. If it weren't for the price, I could easily make this a regular pour.

Grade: A-

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Liquor City Uncorked Private Selection "The Ladies Pick" Kentucky Straight Bourbon

I previously reviewed a private selection Knob Creek Single Barrel that my buddy had picked up for me while he was at Liquor City Uncorked in Covington, Kentucky. That was hands down one of the best bourbons I've ever had, and I'm still blown away at the fact that it was a mere $35 a bottle.

So, when he was going again, I asked him to pick up any new store selections that they may have, figuring I like their taste. This time he came back with what the store had labeled as "The Ladies Pick." Going in I knew that the bar was already set very high, but I was nonetheless excited to crack open yet another of their private selection Knob Creek Single Barrels.

I also liked the name they had labeled on the bottle. Apparently, of the staff who were doing the tasting, this was the favorite among all the women. I attempted to use this feminization of my booze (at least in the label) to encourage my wife to give it a go. Even this couldn't convince her to join me in my enjoyment of whiskey. Oh well, perhaps that's for the better.

As for the booze, though, although it did not quite reach that bar that I had set, to cut to the chase, this was a very good bourbon from start to finish, and, again, a great value considering the price.

The high proof provided for a strong burn at first, one that hit on both the nose and the palate. I found, though, that just a bit of ice cooled it down pretty easily, and the flavors then really came forward.

It's funny that, as I write these reviews, I feel like with many bourbons I say the same thing. But, I guess it would be concerning if I wasn't getting vanilla, caramel, toffee and brown sugar notes, or some combination thereof. The traditional distillers seem to know how to produce those traditional flavors, and this was no different, providing heavy doses of vanilla and toffee, with the vanilla lingering long after each swallow.

The only thing I found slightly different in this bottle from the other private selection that I had was that this had more of a coffee flavor to it, albeit fancy coffee, loaded with sugar, steamed milk and french vanilla flavoring. Being one who will frequently partake in the enjoyment of such fancy coffees, I found this a very appealing characteristic of this bottle.

While I still do not consider myself a big fan of Knob Creek, this is the second straight bottle of a private selection single barrel that I've really enjoyed! I may have to try one (or a few) of the Binny's private selections. Once again, for the price, you can't go wrong with this bottle.

Grade: A-

Friday, November 6, 2015

Orphan Barrel Old Blowhard 26 Year Kentucky Bourbon

It's rare to find a bourbon as old as this one. Many believe that the sweet spot for bourbons is in the 10-12 year range. I tend to agree with that assessment, as I find, unlike with Scotch, that when you get past that 12 year range, the bourbon tends to really take on the wood flavors and dries out significantly.

So, when I poured my first glass of old blowhard and put my nose to the glass, I wasn't surprised to notice the smell of oak immediately. Although the wood tones dominated, it also had a sweet, chocolate sent to it as well, which I really enjoyed.

On the first drink, while I did not notice the wood flavor as much as I thought I would, it unquestionably comes off as a dry bourbon. The most prominent flavor was a chocolate cherry type flavor, reminiscent of the kind that come in Russell Stover's boxes. Eventually the vanilla works its way to the foreground, and while the chocolate-cherry notes were somewhat fleeting, the vanilla flavor tended to linger in the back of my throat long after I swallowed.

The thickness of this bourbon is very noticeable. People typically describe such bourbons as having legs.  In this case, these are good, hearty stumps of legs. It's a very chewy bourbon, one that really coats your mouth and throat. I found the bourbon enjoyable enough that I didn't mind it sticking around for a bit afterwards. Plus, at 90.7 proof, there is no significant burn to take away from the mild sweetness that lingered.

Calling it a "mild" sweetness may be a bit of an overstatement, though. This bourbon is anything but sweet. It is earthy, woody and tannic. The char flavor dominated this whiskey, and a little more sweetness would have gone a long way to making this a great bourbon.

The price point was a bit steep (as is the case for all the Orphan Barrel releases), but given the age and now the scarcity, I can't really ding it much for that. However, I really wanted to find a reason to truly enjoy such an aged bourbon. I wanted it to sweeten up, perhaps have those bitter tannins fade away a bit, and it just didn't happen. It remained a bitter, woody bourbon that almost completely lacked the sweetness I so desire.

Grade: B

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Clyde May's Alabama Whiskey

It seems every time I go to the liquor store to pick up a new bottle, I always set my sights on a bottle of Clyde Mays, intrigued by what may be contained within, only to end up purchasing something else. Well, I've finally decided to cure my curiosity, and I picked up a bottle.

Clyde Mays advertises itself as an Alabama Whiskey. In doing so, its label notes that, in true Alabama tradition, this whiskey contains a cinnamon spice with hints of green apple. Cinnamon is not that uncommon in spicier bourbons or ryes, but the green apple notes were a bit intriguing.

Upon opening the bottle, though, it was clear that these were more than "hints" of green apple. The nose gave of a very strong sent of green apple, particularly reminding me of green apple Jolly Ranchers. It was certainly unique, as I've never noticed such a scent in any other whiskey I've tried.

Upon my first sip, I immediately noticed the green apple flavor to match the green apple nose. Again, it tasted to me like green apple Jolly Ranchers, as though a handful of them had been added to the barrel. When I mentioned this on Twitter, Clyde Mays responded to me, attributing this to Granny Smith apples added after the aging process.

According to their web site, the whiskey is aged for 5-6 years. Afterwards, juice is extracted from apples, and natural apple "essence" is "gently folded into aged bourbon." While I'm not sure what apple "essence" is or what it means to "gently fold" something it into the bourbon, there's no question that the apple flavoring stands out in this whiskey.

It came across as a very sweet whiskey for this reason, perhaps to make it a more Southern-style whiskey. I didn't dislike it; it just struck me as oddly sticky sweet and fruity.

The label also promised a cinnamon spice, which it delivered. It had a very distinct Red-Hots cinnamon flavor, and this I found very enjoyable. It didn't come forward until the end, and it did so in a well-tempered fashion--not so much that it overpowered, and not so little that it was barely noticeable. Clyde Mays (again through Twitter) attributed the spice to its mashbill consisting of 55% corn, 30% rye and 15% barley.  I also noticed about halfway through my first pour that a dark cherry flavor lingered at the back of my throat, a bit muted but definitely there.

Interestingly, I found myself enjoying this whiskey more after it was open for a while, primarily because the sticky sweetness subdued a bit, allowing the more traditional whiskey flavors to come forward and intermingle with the apple, cinnamon and cherry flavors that otherwise had dominated.

Overall, I'm glad I tried Clyde Mays, and I more than appreciated their interaction on Twitter. However, while I enjoy bourbons for their sweetness (particularly as compared to single malts), this was a bit much for my taste. It was a very drinkable whiskey, and it would be very enjoyable over ice on a Summer evening, but it's not something that I would drink every day.

Grade: B-