Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mellow Corn Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey

- $13
- 100 Proof

Let me just start off by saying this is by far the ugliest label on any bottle I've ever cracked open. The color scheme leaves much to be desired, and it's a good thing its cheap, because it otherwise does not necessarily scream attractiveness as far as whiskey labels are concerned.

But, of course, none of that matters. I only mention it because, considering how recognizable this label is, I couldn't figure out why I couldn't find a bottle near me. It wasn't until I made my trip to Louisville that I finally tracked down a bottle, and now it represents the last bottle standing from my Kentucky trip haul.

On the nose the ethanol is strong, as is expected from a corn whiskey, particularly a higher proof corn whiskey such as this. The nose is also very sweet, however, reminding me of the smell of a corn processing plant (if you've ever been near one, you know the smell I'm talking about).  

The first sip was sweet to match the nose. The corn provides almost all the flavor, but there's a bit of heat mixed with a cinnamon flavor at the end that was quite enjoyable, reminding me of those fireball jawbreakers I used to break my teeth on as a kid. That burn seemed to linger a bit as well, really warming my insides.

Mellow Corn holds up on its own as a sipper, but it is nonetheless pretty one-dimensional. It lacks in any real complexity, though it held up from the beginning of the bottle to the end. Also, considering the price, I fully expected a thin, watery whiskey. While it's not the most viscous I've ever had, it certainly doesn't come across as watery, and had decent texture.

As I worked my way through the bottle i noticed additional hints of almond and brown sugar to mix with the corn and cinnamon that initially dominated. These flavors were not strong and were ultimately overwhelmed by the cinnamon red hots flavor.

For the price I paid, Mellow Corn is a very good whiskey. As far as value whiskeys go, it's always nice to find one that is worthy of sipping neat or with an ice cube. It's nothing great, but it is certainly a better than average whiskey at a nice price.

Grade: C+

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Barton 1792 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Gift Shop Single Barrel Select

- $50
- 98.6 Proof

On my recent trip to Louisville I brought home what I thought was a decent haul of bourbon. In fact, my wife believed that the six bottles could last me three months (hahaha, silly wife!). Here I am, though, just over a month removed from that trip, and I'm finding the bottom of the last couple bottles from that trip. While it has saved me a number of trips to the liquor store, it nonetheless makes me sad to realize that I'm to the last drops of my mementos from my pilgrimage.

This Barton 1792 Single Barrel, a private selection from their gift shop, however, was the one bottle that I tried to make last. I first cracked into this bottle on the bus back to Louisville after hitting Barton as our last distillery tour of the day. I opened the bottle and was hit immediately with a heavy vanilla nose. Even my tour guide noticed the nose from across the aisle of the bus.

That vanilla nose very much carried through to the palate. In fact, this is the closest thing to a vanilla bomb bourbon that I've had in a while. I thoroughly enjoyed it after a long day of distillery tours and bourbon tasting, and I continued to enjoy it each pour thereafter.

In addition to the heavy amounts of vanilla, it had a buttery walnut undertone, making it almost pastry-like in flavor. However, at the back end it was complemented by an unexpected smokiness.

To add to the complexity of this bourbon, as I made my way through this bottle I began to notice a very tasty amaretto flavor that would hang around the back of my throat long after each swallow. This bourbon really coated the mouth and, in general, seemed to stick around forever.

Whoever picked out this barrel has incredible taste.  Although this cost a bit more than the bottles you find on the liquor store shelves, it wasn't that much more, and was still worth every penny. I was sad to see this one go, not only for the sentimental reasons noted above, but also because I knew I wouldn't be able to find this one again.

Grade: A

Monday, August 15, 2016

Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $11
- 100 Proof

This is another one of the bottom-shelf bourbons that I just can't find anywhere in Illinois (though I understand it is available), so I grabbed a bottle while I was in Louisville last month. I'm quickly running short on my stash that I had built up during that trip. Though I hadn't planned on grabbing a bottle of the Evan Williams BIB, at only $11 it was hardly a gamble.

That being said, I'm glad that $11 is all I spent. This bourbon really comes across as a sub-par example of bourbon, something that I would really only use as a mixer, and, quite frankly, that's predominantly what this bottle was used for.

The nose gives off the traditional vanilla and caramel flavors, and leans more toward the caramel end. After getting that first sniff, I was hoping that I had found myself a gem on the lower shelf.

However, upon tasting it, the bourbon just comes across as watery and simple. Sure, it has the typical vanilla, but it lacked in the sweetness that I drew me to bourbon in the first place. Beyond that, it came across as dry and woody. Rather than mix with the wood and develop complex flavors, it simply took on the wood flavor and not much else.

This bourbon is also very watery in texture, and I just didn't really enjoy it as a sipper. As noted above, it just came across as a below-average bourbon, not like the Heaven Hill BIB which is a steal at this price point.

I ultimately ended up using this bourbon for making Old Fashioned's whenever the mood hit me. Even for this purpose, though, I think a sweeter, more robust bourbon would have made for a better cocktail.

Again, at the price point, it was worth the gamble, and I'm not exactly disappointed. However, knowing that there are quality bourbons, even sipping bourbons to be had at this price point, the Evan Williams BIB just doesn't stack up.

Grade: C-

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $12.00
- 100 Proof
- 6 years old

This is another bottle I brought home from my recent trip to Louisville. In fact, this was one of the bottles that I was specifically searching out while I was there. For some reason I just can't find this stuff in Illinois, which is a shame considering how cheap it is and the fact that it gets positive reviews across the board.

Interestingly, the first liquor store I went into was all out, and the guy behind the counter told me it's become very hard to find, even in Louisville. But then I walked a block and a half to the next liquor store where they not only had a bunch of bottles on the shelf, but even a display up front by the register. I told this clerk what the guy at the other liquor store told me and he just laughed.

I brought a number of bottles home with me from that trip, so it took a bit to crack into this one, but when I did, I was more than pleasantly surprised. The nose on this bourbon is great! It was a nice  blend of caramel and vanilla, which I would certainly expect, but also tobacco leaf, reminiscent of good Irish single malts. I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed the nose!

On my first sip, I primarily noticed a nice, mellow rye spice, complemented by the expected vanilla and caramel notes. That sweetness counter-balanced by the rye spice stayed consistent throughout, making this a very solid, traditional rye-based bourbon. There was nothing overly complex about this bourbon. It's not trying to be anything more than just a good bourbon, and it does a good job of that.

On the back end I got some oak flavors which I didn't anticipate from a 6 year old bourbon. The cinnamon spice from the rye seemed to tickle the back of my throat, but the caramel seemed to coat it after a bit, sticking around a bit longer.

It's a thin, watery bourbon, yet it doesn't lack for flavor. While watery bourbons tend to be more of mixers than sippers, I really enjoyed drinking this one straight from the glass. At only $12 a bottle, this is an incredible value, certainly an above-average bourbon at an incredibly affordable price.

Grade: B

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Breckenridge Whiskey Port Cask Finish

- $70
- 90 Proof

A couple weeks ago my wife and I did the obligatory road trip with the kids, taking them across the flat lands of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska so they could see mountains and experience something other than the great plains. We stayed in Breckenridge, and I knew that at some point on this trip I'd be visiting the Breckenridge Distillery.

Within 10 minutes of being in town, though, I found myself in the Breckenridge Tasting Room, where I was immediately greeted and offered a shot of bourbon! Great start to a vacation, and on hell of a way to cap off a long drive! While at the tasting room, though, I learned of a new release, one which the lady behind the counter believed was already sold out. She informed me that only a week prior Breckenridge Distillery had just finished bottling their port finish. While she had no samples for me, she assured me it was incredible.  So, I spent the rest of the week searching out any bottles that remained.

On my last day of vacation I finally made it to the distillery and much to my pleasure they had box on top of box of the port finish, and I grabbed my bottle even before I took the tour (which was free and really fun, by the way!).

On the nose the fruit from the port is really noticeable. Just as noticeable, though, is the sweetness of this whiskey. A sweet, vanilla aroma really came through, not overly sweet, just sweet enough to intrigue me and make me think I'm in for something a little different and good. It smells like dessert!

It comes across as a very easy drinker, not too syrupy, no burn, and, unexpectedly, not nearly as sweet as the nose made me believe it would be. It's on the sweetness level of plums or dark cherries. I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but it wasn't that sickening-sweet that you get in some finished bourbons.

Speaking of "bourbon," I found it interesting that despite that this is simply Breckenridge Bourbon finished in port casks, they chose to label it as "whiskey" and not "bourbon" for the fact that the finishing adds flavors not otherwise found in the bourbon. While some distillers continue to call their port finished products "bourbon" (i.e. Angel's Envy and Barton 1792), Breckenridge went the safe route calling it "whiskey."

Nonetheless, the traditional bourbon flavors eventually came through, sneaking out from under the dominant dark fruit flavors. Vanilla and cinnamon came to the forefront as well, along with a hint of coffee flavor.

In the end, though, the earlier sweetness stuck around after the other flavors seemed to disappear, and those sweet notes seemed to linger at the back of my throat forever, something I really enjoyed about this bourbon. Overall, I was very pleased with the only souvenir I brought back from Breckenridge, and I hope they keep cranking out such quality products!

Grade: A

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Glenfiddich 14 Year Bourbon Barrel Reserve Single Malt Scotch

- $50
- 86 Proof

It's been a while since I've finished off a bottle of Scotch. My purchases over the last few months have been bourbon-centric. Heck, even this purchase is a Scotch that was aged in bourbon barrels. When I first heard Glenfiddich was releasing its Bourbon Barrel Reserve, I knew I had to try it, and I grabbed the first bottle I saw on the shelves.

This Scotch is aged for 14 years in bourbon barrels, and then finished in new oak. Having never had a Scotch aged in bourbon barrels, I was eager to see how the traditional vanillas and caramels commonly associated with bourbon would influence the Scotch.

I've always found Glenfiddich to produce very inoffensive, easy-drinking Scotches. No peat, light, crisp flavors and no burn. Such is the case with the Bourbon Barrel Reserve. It's a very light whiskey. In fact, I was surprised at how watery in texture it was. It didn't have the same body that other Glenfiddich expressions. Even the 15 year, at only a year older, has a much fuller body.

The nose is soft and floral. It also gave hints of pipe tobacco and vanilla. I expected the bourbon barrel influence to come through a little more, with stronger vanilla and caramel on the nose, but such was not the case.

The flavor up front is sweet and malty, a slightly more complex version of the Glenfiddich 12-year. As I let the whisky sit on my tongue, I primarily noticed vanilla (finally) but also with a distinct and sweet honey flavor, making this a sweeter Scotch than most.

As noted above, this is a very watery whisky, so the flavor doesn't hang around too long after the swallow, which was a bit disappointing. There was no sweet, butterscotch flavor to hang around the back of my throat, one of my favorite parts about enjoying a good Scotch. The influence of the bourbon barrels wasn't quite what I'd hoped it would be either. I didn't know quite what to expect, and while it didn't the fruity or citrus undertones of many Scotches, rather leaning towards the vanilla and honey flavors, the influence just wasn't as bold. I guess I expected more vanilla and toffee influence than what I got.

Grade: B-