Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Barton 1792 Sweet Wheat Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $44.00
- 91.2 Proof

I had been on the hunt for a while now for the 1792 Sweet Wheat, but I just could not find it in the stores. Even when I was in Louisville, even though I was able to find it, it was either overpriced or there was something else that caught my eye at the time. So, when I wandered into one of my regular liquor store stops just to see what they had, I couldn't have been more pleased to find one bottle sitting by itself on the bottom shelf.

The nose itself is indeed soft and sweet, like vanilla cereal. One of my favorite cereals growing up was Frosted Cheerios, and I was reminded of how much I like that cereal when I took a big whiff of this.

This is unquestionably a wheated bourbon. However, it did not have that normal tang or twinge (I have no idea how to describe it) that other wheated bourbons have. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone reading this, but it does to me. Rather, this wheated bourbon is very smooth, and certainly sweeter than other wheated bourbons I've had.

It has a soft and sweet palate to match the flavors on the nose. That cereal flavor is still there, mixing grain with sugar and vanilla. There is, however, something light and crisp about this whiskey that I didn't expect. I've tried to put my finger on it since the first pour, and yet, even after the last drop, I can't quite identify it. It is almost citrusy, but not quite. Perhaps it's just a variation of the aforementioned tang/twinge that I'm used to noticing in wheated bourbons.

I actually had plans of getting to a good bourbon bar near my work where I know they carry the 1792 Sweet Wheat, but luckily for me I found a bottle of my own. Of course I may still go to that bar, but now I can spend my money trying something different. In the meantime, though, if I ever see Sweet Wheat on the shelves again, I won't hesitate to grab a bottle for the bunker.

Grade: A-

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey

- $45
- 90 Proof

My wife is wonderful in so many ways, but one of the biggest ways is when she buys me random bottles of whiskey out of the blue. This was one such bottle. Intrigued by the sticker on the bottle advertising Dad's Hat's Rye as having been named Craft Whiskey of the Year by Whisky Advocate, and knowing it was one I've not tried before, she grabbed a bottle for me on a whim. (You should know she also grabbed yet another bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof while she was at the store just because she knew I loved it!)

I feel like I've been lucky enough to get my hands on some of the harder to find or nicer bottles from the major producers lately, but, as a result, I haven't tried many of the hundreds of craft distillery products that are out there, so I eagerly popped the cork on this one right away.

Sometimes when I nose a bourbon it takes me a few tries before I can pin down the different scents I'm noticing. That was not the case with this one. This nose was a blend of tobacco leaf and dark cherry. Certainly these are not everyday scents, so I don't know why, for whatever reason, I was able to ascertain this one quickly, but I was certain of what I smelled. The tobacco reminded leave actually reminded me of some Irish whiskeys I've had in the past.

Upon the first sip, the first thing I noticed was that this Rye has an odd tanginess to it. At first I chalked it up to the fact that it is a young whiskey coming from a craft distillery. According to the label, it was aged for a minimum of 6 months in new oak quarter cask barrels. I've noticed that with young ryes, they have a certain young quality due to less time spent with the wood. This one was a bit different than that, though.

The tanginess was almost like the sweet tanginess you get from vermouth or even rum finished barrels—a sweetness that has a thin line between sweet and too sweet. I thought this rye came pretty close to that line, but did not cross it.

It had an interesting combination of flavors going on. Though it took me a few drinks to pinpoint it, it has a nutmeg flavor that seemed to mix with the plum (perhaps that's the tanginess I noticed, like biting into a not-quite-ripe plum). However, it had that sugar cane flavor to it as well. I can't recall ever having plum pudding, but I imagine that if I had, that would be my flavor comparison here. I could be way off base here, so for now I'll just leave it as is and make it a point to try plum pudding some time.

All in all, this is a good rye that I feel, with some additional aging, can become a really good rye. That being said, this one was already bottled, so I drank it and enjoyed it. While it may not be on the list of my priorities as far as future purchases, it certainly has me interested in some of the other products that Dad's Hat offers, including the port finished rye I've seen on the shelves recently, and I may give one of those a go.

Grade: B

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Willett Family Estate 3-Year Straight Rye

- $45
- 110.4 Proof
- 3 Years

Last year I had the opportunity to try the Willett Family Estate 2 Year Rye, their own product which they distilled and aged, and I absolutely loved it. So, when the 3-year was released, I did not hesitate to grab a bottle to try immediately (and I'm sure I'll be grabbing each future release as well).

It's nice when a product you already know you love gets released as a slightly older version. It really takes the risk out of the purchase, not that I've found a whole lot of risk with Willett products to begin with. This one certainly did not disappoint. On the nose I immediately noticed cinnamon bread. It was a nice blend of sweet spice and grain that made my mouth salivate immediately.

What followed was a taste of traditional rye, but also, and not necessarily unexpectedly, a mild cinnamon flavor paired with an earthy maltiness, giving this rye multiple enjoyable layers, and certainly showing where the cinnamon bread nose came from. At points I even likened it to Cinnamon Toast Crunch (for some reason, I frequently find myself comparing flavors in whiskey to different cereal brands). It just had that familiarity to it. 

This rye really seemed to linger for ever. It's a more viscous rye, one that really coated the mouth and back of the throat, making that cinnamon flavor stick around for quite a while. A light minty-ness seemed to come through at the end, really only noticeable after I swallowed. This presented a nice complement to the sweet heat that maintained throughout each sip, even long after I finished each sip.

This remained a very rich rye from the beginning of the bottle to the end. Towards the end, it seemed to be almost all cinnamon and caramel (a combination of flavors that I really seem to enjoy!), really finishing strong.

I took my time getting through this bottle, and now that it's done, I feel like it won't be too long before their next release. I can't wait, as I enjoyed this more than the 2-year (which, looking back at my old post, I clearly loved!), and this stuff appears to be on an upward trajectory right now.

Grade: A

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey

Price: $50
Proof: 110 Proof
Age: 6 Years (NAS on bottle)
Distiller: Heaven Hill

I held onto this bottle for quite some time before opening it. I'm not really sure why, just seemed to have something else I wanted to open first, and so my Pikesville Rye just sat bunkered, waiting to be loved. But, finally, I decided to crack the seal and give it a try, and before I knew it I was to the bottom of the bottle. I don't know what I was waiting for, because once opened I couldn't stay away from this stuff.

On the nose there's a distinct citrus note to it, very orange-y. Traditional rye flavors are also present, with a strong cinnamon spice, but the orange scent immediately set this apart from other ryes.

On the first sip, the citrus note remained, but it had more bitterness to it, more like orange peel. That bitter orange peel flavor mixed quite well, however, with prominent brown sugar and vanilla notes, making this rye neither too bitter nor too sweet. It found a nice cushion in the middle, like a slot receiver finding a soft spot in a zone defense.

This is certainly a different tasting rye, unlike your traditional ryes, but it still had some of the familiar characteristics I enjoy in a good rye, particularly that cinnamon spice. While it wasn't strong and didn't tickle the back of my throat or make my mouth water like some do, it again was enough to balance very well with all the other flavors going on.

This rye clocks in at 110 proof. Although it's not labeled as barrel proof, there certainly hasn't been much watering down of the product, and that complexity and richness that comes with higher proofs certainly exists in this rye. It's an incredibly easy sipper despite the high proof, and I didn't really notice any burn either in the nose or on the palate. 

Ultimately, this is one of the most well-balanced ryes I've had, giving almost equal doses of citrus, sweet, spicy and bitter. Since its release, Pikesville has been pretty readily available, and, although somewhat in the higher range of ryes, is certainly worth the price, as this is an excellent, albeit kind of different, rye whiskey. It's no wonder that I found my way through this bottle as fast as I did.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Straight Rye Whiskey

- $40
- 99 Proof
- 7 years
- Batch No. 52

The Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Rye had eluded me for quite some time. While it was supposed to be generally available, I simply hadn't seen it in the wild anywhere. Having heard good things about it, I always kept an eye out.

I ended up finding it at a local higher-end grocery store called Mariano's. Among their whiskey selections were a number of craft options the likes you don't find in most grocery stores, and there, at a cool $40, were a number of bottles of the Old Scout Rye. It only took me half a second to grab one and head for the checkout line.

The nose is a traditional rye spice, with some vanilla and pepper and a bit of cherry to it. On the first sip I couldn't help but notice how smooth it is. It's 99 proof, but had very minimal burn.

The flavor was all dark fruits and spice. It was like a mix of cherry and plum with cinnamon. It also had a nutty, pecan flavor behind it. I found it to be incredibly tasty from the first pour.

Perhaps it was the bottle, perhaps it was me, or perhaps it's just a complex rye, but while the cherry flavor stuck around, as I made my way through this bottle, the cinnamon and nut flavors were muted and a distinct coffee flavor came to the forefront to mix with the cherry, along with a chocolate undertone.  This cherry and coffee mix was really interesting, and the differing flavors continued to hit my tongue in waves, even if they were different than on the first pour.

This is a very warming rye, certainly spicy, and would be very good on a cold winter night. I happened to enjoy this bottle over the summer, and, don't get me wrong, I absolutely enjoyed it on warm summer nights, sitting on my couch in the air conditioning.

Grade: B+