Monday, May 29, 2017

Michter's 10 Year Single Barrel Straight Rye (2016)

- $110
- 10 Yrs.
- Barrel No. 16A131

The Michter's 10 Year Rye is one of those highly sought after "chase" whiskeys. I've long since resigned myself to being nothing more than an opportunistic bourbon hunter, grabbing those rarities when the chance presents itself, but not going out of my way to track them down. This was one, however, that I would have been happy to chase. I love Michter's in general, I love their ryes, and I'm a big fan of aged ryes. This one seemed to me like it'd be right up my alley, and I wanted one!

I did not pay secondary for mine, nor did I even pay the retail price of $110 or so. I actually won this on a whim, having entered into a raffle believing going in that I wasn't going to win it. But, for $11/spot, I figured the $22 I spent for the chance would suffice as my "chase." So when my number came up the winner, I couldn't have been more stoked, nabbing this bottle for a fraction of the retail cost, let alone the secondary which is close to double that amount!

Upon arrival, I popped it open and was hit with a caramel heavy nose, sweet but with a light amount of that rye spice on top. I also got come scent of cloves coming off it as well. It smelled very good, but along the sweeter, fruitier lines, kind of like Baby Saz.

On my first sip I couldn't help but notice how light in texture this rye is. It's soft, even a bit watery. Yet it still had plenty of flavor and a decently long finish. While it has the traditional vanilla flavor with the cinnamon spice finish that you usually get in a rye, it also had a nice orange peel tang to it.

It also had a light peppery and brown sugar finish that seemed to stick around for quite some time despite the watery texture. That orange peel, brown sugar and cinnamon spice really made me feel like I was drinking an Old Fashioned poured right out of a bottle. It was very enjoyable in that sense, as I'm a big fan of Old Fashioned's.

All that being said, the price on this bottle, bot retail and secondary, isn't really justified. There are better, more complex and more interesting ryes on the market for half the cost or less (see Baby Saz, Pikesville and Willett to name a few). While I can't be disappointed considering what I paid, if I'm reviewing this from the perspective of one who paid full price, this rye is a bit of a let down considering the price and the high demand for this product. The watery texture and lack of complexity left me feeling that while this was very good, it just wasn't . . . special.

Grade: B/B+

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wild Turkey Master's Keep 17 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $150
- 86.8 Proof
- 17 Years
- Kentucky

Wild Turkey Master's Keep has been sitting on shelves around here (Chicago area) for quite some time. A lot of that certainly has to do with the cost. I'm sure some of it has to do with the low proof of this premium bourbon, clocking in at a mere 86.8 proof, despite being cask strength. I would also imagine that some of it is due to the lackluster reviews this bourbon has received. In any event, thanks to some Binny's gift cards, I decided to splurge and give this a try.

Quite frankly, bad reviews aside (though I did come across some very positive reviews as well), I was most intrigued by the fact that this bourbon was not cut down with water to arrive at this low proof. It had me hoping that it would be as full of flavor as other cask strength bottlings, but with minimal burn. This is one of the first projects of Eddie Russel, son of the great Jimmy Russel and relatively new master distiller at Wild Turkey. He attributes the low proof to the fact that this bourbon was aged in stone warehouses, so in a cooler and damper environment, resulting in a low-proof product coming out of the barrel. If nothing else, I figured it'd be unique.

The nose is very pungent and enjoyable. It's full of caramel and vanilla, with a little bit of cinnamon spice. With the age, I expected to get a lot of wood, but that simply wasn't there. Interestingly, over time the nose developed a rich, fruity quality, kind of an apricot flavor that reminded me of brandy.

On the palate the first thing I noticed was that there was absolutely no burn and nothing but flavor. I also immediately recognized that Wild Turkey profile that so many people either love it or don't. However, this has less spice than Wild Turkey 101 or Rare Breed. Despite it not being present in the nose, the wood comes forward, though in a softer, subtler manner. It is more of flavor only and doesn't make the bourbon seem dry. It's like it got the wood flavor but without the tannins.  

The finish is sweet and long, like a nice blend of amaretto and cloves. The cinnamon spice I expected on the palate finally comes through at the end as well, and it seems to contribute to that nice, warm Kentucky hug. I never found the fruity profile in the flavor that I was getting off the nose. Had it been there I may have enjoyed this much more, as I really enjoyed it on the nose.

This is a very easy bourbon to drink, and, as mentioned above, not nearly as dry as other 15+ year bourbons I've had. It's rich and full of flavor. However, there was something about this bottle that turned me off. I kept getting a weird, musty flavor, like that taste in your mouth when you walk into a damp basement. At first I thought I just got it stuck in my head after reading about the "damp environment" in which the barrels were aged, but I kept noticing it every time I went back to this bottle. It was kind of weird, and, quite frankly, for the price, weird is not the conclusion I was going for.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Maker's Mark Whisky Magazine & Binny's Private Select Kentucky Bourbon

- $70
- 110.2 Proof

This is the second Maker's Mark Private Select that I've picked up. I loved the first bottle I tried, just as I have absolutely loved every other pour that I've had in bars. The Maker's Mark Private Selects are bottles that, when I see them on the shelves, I just grab them without question. Much like the Four Roses private selections, I feel like I'm guaranteed, at the least, a very good pour.

This particular bottling was no different. For those not in the know, the Private Select program allows a purchaser to create a custom recipe using a combination of ten different oak finishing staves of different types, and each stave adds different character and flavor. In the past the ones I've had were heavy on the Roasted French Mocha and the Toasted French Spice. This one is not so much:

On the nose I smelled a lot of wood and spice, like a peppery spice that tickled the nostrils. Though it lacked those traditional vanilla and caramel notes, as well as the chocolate notes that I've found in previous Private Selects, it did have an interesting buttery note to it as well. Not sure it played really well with the peppery spice, but it was certainly different and unique.

The palate very much matched the nose as well. Up front I was hit with the peppery wood notes. Though a bit dry in that sense, it was still complex and full of flavor, and it didn't strike me as an offensive dry-ness in any sense. Rather, it was a very full-bodied bourbon with an incredibly long, cinnamon finish that kept me salivating long after each swallow.

Towards the end of the bottle, it began to sweeten up a bit. Along with the pepper and long cinnamon finish, the traditional caramel flavor began to take center stage, and all the flavors were not complemented by an orange peel flavor that seemed to blend all the flavors together into one delicious flavor profile. While I enjoyed it from the start, by the end I found myself eager for the nex pour and couldn't get enough of it.

Though I didn't LOVE this one quite like I've loved other private selects, it was still a very good whiskey, and well-worth the price. It's still a complex, bold and spicy whiskey which, if I weren't comparing it to other Private Selects that I've had, would certainly be considered a top-tier pour. I did learn, however, that I'm apparently partial to the flavor profiles provided by the French Mocha and French Spice staves, and, if given options, I can look for that particular profile going forward (though I'll still probably just continue to grab them regardless of the recipe).

Grade: A-

Friday, May 12, 2017

1792 Full Proof Binny's Single Barrel Select

- $50
- 125 Proof

Having had my eye out for the 1792 Full Proof as soon as I heard of its release, it was a no-brainer for me to grab this one off the shelf. At $50, just the fact that it's a barrel strength release from one of the big guys makes this a reasonable buy. I've come to love what 1792 has been producing, so I was very excited to try this one.

The nose is softer than expected and quite sweet. It certainly didn't hit me like a ton of bricks, either with alcohol burn or flavor. However, the sweet smell was reminiscent of cinnamon and raisin bread with brown sugar. An incredibly pleasant and enjoyable smell, so much so that I sat there sniffing my glass for a good few minutes before taking the first sip.

The first thing that I noticed about this high-proofer is the minimal amount of burn. The fact that the high alcohol content didn't seem to get in the way really allowed all the flavor to come through, and this whiskey is certainly full of flavor. It had a long spicy finish, kind of a blend of cinnamon and black pepper spice. That spiciness seemed to linger forever both in the mouth and at the back of the throat.

Up front was a delicious blend of plum and almond. It was sweet, but only subtly sweet, but was still very rich. Those flavors were rounded out by a light smokiness that was strong enough to be noticed and not strong enough to detract from the other flavors. It was really more savory than expected, as the nose had me thinking this was going to be a dessert (or possible a breakfast) whiskey.

As good as it was on that first pour, this bourbon only got better from pour to pour. Towards the end, the more traditional caramel and vanilla flavors came through, and they really complemented the plum and almond notes that I was noticing previously. The peppery spice seemed to dissipate and it eventually developed that sweet cinnamon note that I expected from the nose.

From beginning to end, despite the noticeable transformation, this bourbon was absolutely delicious. At this price, for what you're getting, it's absolutely worth it and I wouldn't hesitate to buy it again!

Grade: A

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Four Roses Binny's Private Selection Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon - OESV

- $60
- 107.8 Proof
- 9 Years, 7 Months

This is recipe number seven of the ten different Four Roses recipes that I've had the chance to try (and I've got OESK sitting in reserve--just need to find an OESQ and an OBSO). Spoiler alert--as with every other Four Roses private selection I've tried, this one is also very, very good, even if not the best of the bunch.

The nose on this one is mild, certainly milder than past private single barrels I've had, which have always come across to me as being very bold and in your face both in smell and flavor. It is heavy on the caramel and vanilla, and it has a more pronounced woodiness to it than others. Interestingly, though, there as a noticeable wintergreen mint note to it, something I've only noticed before in certain ryes.

The palate is full-bodied and rich, heavy on the cinnamon and vanilla, kind of like a chai tea latte type of flavor. The cinnamon spice lingers at the back of the throat for a nice, long time. There are also distinct cinnamon notes, kind of a corn flake flavor that I usually don't get from Four Roses products. What wasn't there, at least on my first taste, was that wintergreen flavor that I got from the nose.

Despite its proof, this bourbon had no real burn. Rather, it was a complex and flavorful bourbon, thick and oily, yet very easy to drink. That oily texture really coated my mouth, allowing all the flavors to linger for a bit, and after a few sips, that's when I noticed that cool minty-nesss, not on my tongue or at the back of the throat, but rather on the roof of my mouth, seemingly just lingering there.

Towards the end of the bottle, the caramel flavor really took center stage, like I was drinking a Werther's Original. That cooling mint that I was looking for at first stuck around throughout, but was more of an afterthought. Rather, it was that rich, thick caramel coating that was prominent. The last few pours had sweetened significantly, making for a damn good drink.

If I were grading on the last couple pours only, this is an A+. Although I wish it had been that good throughout, though, it was nonetheless very enjoyable from beginning to end, even with the odd mint and corn flake notes thrown in there.

Grade: A-