Monday, July 24, 2017

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

VITALS:
- $60
- 107.8 Proof
- 9 years, 8 months
- Region: Kentucky

Let me start out by saying that the Four Roses Single Barrel private selections will, after I've had a chance to get through all ten recipes, or perhaps even before then, be one of those bourbons that I will grab off the shelf every time I see it. Each private selection that I've tried has been nothing short of very good, and a few have been great.

This recipe, OESK, is my eighth of the ten different recipes, and it held true to the above premise. Although I might not describe this one as "great," it is nonetheless very good, and far from a disappointment or giving me buyer's remorse.

On the nose there was surprisingly no burn at all. Rather, it was full of the familiar scents of cinnamon and a whole bunch of vanilla. It even had a bit of a buttery note on the nose that made me never want to stop sniffing the stuff.

On the first few pours, there was a light cinnamon spice, and the wood tones were stronger than I'm used to getting in Four Roses bourbons. What set it apart even more, however, was the very distinct dark chocolate flavor. Between the wood and the dark chocolate flavors, there wasn't much sweetness up front.

Over time, however, that changed. It did sweeten up pretty significantly, yet it still maintained that cinnamon spice. Rather than wood tones, it took on more of an almond flavor and lost some of the edge it initially had. It really smoothed out and had a sort of red hots mixed with amaretto thing going.

The dark chocolate tones stuck around throughout, and I got an added peanut butter flavor in the latter half of the bottle that was subtle, but once I noticed it, I couldn't not notice it, if that makes sense.

Needless to day, this bottle had quite a bit going for it. While I wouldn't say the flavors blended perfectly together, they were pleasant, unique and nonetheless very tasty. It didn't change in profile as much as I thought it would, but it did improve over time, and the flavors that developed were . . . fun? Yeah, I'll go with fun.

Grade: B+

Monday, July 17, 2017

Angel's Envy 2016 Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $180
- 124.6 Proof
- NAS
- Region: Kentucky

This is one of those bottles that I've been on the lookout for ever since I tried the regular Angel's Envy Bourbon, but I just never seemed to come across a bottle. The 2016 version, however, was more than available, albeit due in large part to the much higher price tag. Nonetheless, I parted ways with some hard-earned money for a chance to finally enjoy what I'd been after for years.

Of course, it required a special occasion before I popped the cork, so my neighbor, the one who recently moved away, and I enjoyed this bottle on the last day he was in town . . . and enjoy it we did. It was one of those mornings where I looked at the bottle, with only a few ounces remaining, and immediately realized why I felt the way I did.

What I enjoyed, at least those first couple pours and then the last few remnants months later, though, I REALLY enjoyed! This release is unique in that it's unfiltered. Accordingly, you can actually see the char from the barrels floating around in the bottle, even some relatively decent-sized chunks. I never noticed any of the char, however, as I drank it.

Rather, what I noticed is that this is an amped up and better version of Angel's Envy! It has a pungent nose, full of plum and cherry layered on top of sweet vanilla. There's also the slight scent of cloves on the nose. Of course, the expected port and alcohol burn are there, but they, by no means, detract from the complex and delicious nose that this bourbon otherwise offers.

On the palate I immediately notice the flavor of candied fruits, like dried and sweetened plum and cherry mixed with brown sugar. There's also a heavy dose of vanilla behind the dark fruits that really makes this a rich and delicious dessert-like pour!

It's very oily in texture and has surprisingly little burn. Don't get me wrong, the proof is high and this bourbon makes you notice, but rather than ethanol flavors taking over, it just has a nice, long, warm hug, even from the smallest sip. It's easy to drink and immediately coats the mouth with sweet, fruity flavors, but then leaves behind a cinnamon flavor in the back of the throat that seemingly never goes away.

The last pour from the bottle (which I decided to enjoy while I watched the season premier of Game of Thrones) was almost as if it were a slightly condensed version, or a reduction. It seemed to have thickened and was almost sticky and sweet. It almost reminded me of some of George R.R. Martin's descriptions of some of the wines in his books.  However, it never came across too sweet, perhaps due to the heavy amounts of vanilla and long, warming cinnamon spice that followed. 

I wish I didn't have to pay the price I did for this bottle. However, I was glad to have gotten to enjoy it, as I found this to be fantastic. As I would expect it to be, it was an amped up, better version of a product I already enjoy, and it met all expectations I might have had.

Grade: A

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Journeyman Distillery Kissing Cousins Whiskey

VITALS:
- $35
- 90 Proof
- NAS
- Batch No. 5
- Region: Michigan

Among the various whiskey and bourbon related Podcasts I've listened to over the years is one called, simply, the Bourbon Show. One of the hosts, Evan Haskill, is from Michigan, near Journeyman Distillery, and early on in the show's series he began touting just how amazing this product was. Of course, hearing him speak so highly of a product that I could never seem to find on the shelves only made me want it more. So when I stumbled across a bottle at Binny's, not even looking for bourbon, I made sure to snatch one up.

Kissing Cousins gets its name from the fact that it's a collaboration with Wyncroft Winery, placing Journeyman's Featherbone Bourbon into barrels that formerly held Cabernet Sauvignon. As one who is a fan of wine barrel-finished whiskeys, I was more than happy to give this a go, despite it only coming in a 375 ml bottle.

On the nose the wine notes are heavy up front, carrying significant plumb and dark cherry notes. Those are offset a touch by some citrus-y orange notes as well. It's very soft and fruity, seemingly layered over a distinct caramel note.

After enjoying that nose, the first taste came across much less sweet than I expected, which was not necessarily a bad thing. I got the traditional vanilla notes up front, but they seemed fleeting, as they were quickly overpowered by the strong flavor from the Cabernet Sauvignon, which lingered long after the vanilla notes dissipated. There is also a bit of amaretto flavor and the slightest hint of sour or over-ripe fruit, indicative of young bourbon being used.

The finish is primarily dark chocolate and cherry, lingering for a good amount of time after each swallow. There is almost no spice to speak of with this whiskey, which was a touch disappointing. The traditional bourbon notes just don't seem to ever show up either. Had the traditional vanilla or toffee notes been more prevalent, I might have found this whiskey much more enjoyable.

I guess ultimately it tastes like what it is, a young bourbon with a little too much wine influence for my tastes. I tried letting it sit for a bit, hoping it might open up some and some of the other flavors might come through, but that was not the case.  Nor did it seem to smooth out, almost developing even rougher edges over time than what it started with.

I was glad to finally try this one, but it just did not live up to Mr. Haskill's hype.

Grade: C+

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

VITALS:
- $15
- 90 Proof
- NAS
- Region: Kentucky

Sometimes I pick up a bottle purely out of curiosity. My wife made a Trader Joe's run the other day, and when she asked me if I wanted anything, I half-jokingly said, "Get me some Trader Joe's bourbon!"  To her credit, she looked for it, and for only $15.00, she couldn't find any reason not to grab a bottle.

The label doesn't tell you much about what's inside the bottle. There's no age statement, and it only states that it was distilled by Bourbon Square Distilling Company in Louisville. Some quick Googling tells me, however, that it's distilled by Buffalo Trace at the Barton 1792 distillery. Accordingly, I went in expecting Ten High, or something of that caliber.

I will say, while this is not a bourbon I'd recommend to neighbors and friends, nor is it likely something I'll keep stocked in my home bar, it wasn't that bad.

The nose is sweet, heavy on the brown sugar. However, it's complemented by baking spices, rounding out a nice, dessert-like scent. It does carry some alcohol on the nose, telling me it's not going to be a "smooth" pour, but that was really to be expected.

The bourbon is watery in texture, but still provides a lot of that brown sugar that I found on the nose. It's a sweet bourbon with some rough edges and bitterness, but other flavors were able to come through as well. It came across as a bit nutty, like a walnut flavor, again, going decently with the brown sugar.

Interestingly, I also noticed light smokiness, which made this one stand out from other bourbons in this price range. That smokey, nutty and sweet combination could be decent if aged longer. In the end, though, it's a younger bourbon, certainly not aged much more than 4 years, and the watery texture and alcohol flavor puts this bourbon right where it belongs--among all the other bottom shelf bourbons that are best-suited to be mixed with Coke.

As stated above, I won't be stocking my bar with Trader Joe's Bourbon any time soon, but it was fun to try, especially at a price where there's pretty much no risk. In the end, it all comes down to . . . it wasn't that bad.

Grade: C+