Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Maker's Mark Private Select Binny's Beverage Depot #6 Kentucky Bourbon

VITALS:
- $80
- 112.1 Proof
- NAS
- Region: Kentucky

Once again I am here touting just how good the Maker's Mark Private Selects are. As I've said in the past, while some are certainly better than others, I still have yet to find one that is not, at least, very good. This particular Private Select is no different. While it's not my favorite, not really having that flavor profile that first turned me on to these, this is still a very delicious bourbon!

As with all of the Private Selects, these barrels are not so much selected as they are created, by selecting the combination of staves that were then inserted into the barrel for some extra finishing and aging. This particular barrel breaks down as follows:

I'll be honest, the first three or so pours I ever had of any Maker's Mark Private Select all had a unique and delicious sweet chocolate note to them, and I've found myself chasing that profile ever since. So, seeing that this one had more of the French Mocha staves, I just couldn't help myself. What wasn't there, however, was that chocolate profile that I was seeking. Nonetheless, this was a very complex and flavorful whiskey that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The nose gave off a bit of ethanol at first, which was somewhat off-putting. However, once I got past that alcohol smell, I got an interesting combination of dark chocolate and walnut on the nose, giving it a decadent, but not sweet, nose.

On the palate I did get the chocolate notes, but it was more of a bitter chocolate flavor than the sweet chocolate I was hoping for. It was more of a cocoa powder flavor. That flavor did go well with a creamy, buttery flavor that also came through. It was kind of like an unsweetened breakfast pastry. There were also hints of orange that seemed to bounce in and out from time to time, an almost evasive flavor.  I also got a nutty flavor lingering in the background, though it didn't seem to be the walnut flavor I found on the nose. Rather, it was more of an unsalted peanut flavor.

The finish was primarily a light and smokey cinnamon flavor. It had a good amount of spice, along with a light smokiness that added to the complexity just a bit. Overall it has a nice, creamy texture that allowed the flavors to linger for quite a while after each sip.

The great texture and nice complexity made this an interesting and tasty pour, even if the flavors were somewhat all over the place. What remained consistent, however, was the lingering spice at the back end, which had me wanting another sip over and over again. While it didn't hit the mark as far as the flavor profile I was hoping for, this ended up being an excellent pour nonetheless.

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 20, 2017

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey

VITALS:
- $35
- 100 Proof
- 2 Years
- Region: Indiana (bottled in Kentucky)

This is one of those whiskeys that I've seen pretty regularly on the shelves, but frequently passed it over for no reason in particular. For a long time I knew little about it, and I guess that was reason enough. As someone who is a fan of MGP ryes, however, having happened upon a list of Non-Distilling Producers that are bottling MGP's product and seeing James E. Pepper 1776 Rye on the list, I then figured, what do I have to lose?

It's only a two-year rye, so my expectations going in weren't great, regardless of where it came from. On the nose I got a LOT of alcohol. It's not a super-high proofer, so that was quite off-putting, and it was pretty difficult to get past.

Once I was able to get past that alcohol smell, though, I was able to notice some distinct cherry and vanilla on the nose. Unfortunately, though, that alcohol smell made it very hard to enjoy what should otherwise have been some very pleasant aromas.

On the palate it had some harsh and rough edges. The cherry and vanilla flavors were there, even at times reminding me of a cherry Coca-Cola. The cherry was more dominant on the palate than on the nose, and it brought a significant sweetness to it, kind of like maraschino cherries.

There was a light, peppery spice on the back end to compliment that sweet, syrupy cherry flavor, but the finish was short and unremarkable. Any flavors I found myself enjoying seemed to disappear almost immediately.

On later pours I got some further notes that made this an interesting pour. Orange peel came through, giving some (not sure the word I'm looking for here . . . character? substance?) to the bitterness that I didn't really like at first. It sort of gave that bitterness a reason for being there, a purpose, rather than just being bitter for bitterness' sake.

In the end, though, this is a young, rough rye. It's interesting at times, but those times were fleeting, and ultimately those rough edges never seemed to smooth out. In the end it was a somewhat one dimensional pour, lacking any robustness or complexity. While I really enjoyed the unique, cherry cola flavor, it just wasn't enough for me.

Grade: C+

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Binny's Private Select Barrel #4519 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $40
- 120 Proof
- 10 Years
- Region: Kentucky

As I've said over and over again, the Knob Creek private selections, wherever they may be found, are one of the best deals out there. You're almost guaranteed to get a very good bottle of bourbon out of it, and sometimes you get something great. Either way, at $40.00 or less, at the very least you won't be stuck with buyer's remorse. Plus, no two barrels are alike, and I've really enjoyed just trying the different flavor profiles.

Binny's recently got a new batch of private selections in. Many people immediately went for the 13 1/2 year old, the oldest among their selections, but I was informed that Binny's main buyer, whoever he may be, liked this barrel the best. Perhaps I was fed a line, or perhaps it's true, but again, at $40, what's the risk? So I grabbed a bottle to find out.

The nose rich and heavy with the traditional vanilla and caramel notes. It has a mild alcohol burn, certainly less than would be expected from a high proofer. The nose is pungent, and it seems to forecast a heavy, rich and sweet flavored bourbon to follow.

On first sip, flavors aside, my primary thought was, "This is delicious!" Caramel is the foundation of this bourbon, providing a sweet, creamy flavor from beginning to end, with a nice cinnamon spice at the end. However, from front to back there were other flavors that seemed to come and go, not sticking around too long to offend the senses or to detract too much from that base-line caramel, but rather only long enough to make you appreciate those flavors while they're there, and love the caramel notes when they're not.

There was a anise flavor that I noticed in early pours. Again, though, it wasn't prevalent throughout, but just seemed to come and go, having me looking for it. It may seem weird, but this combination, with the heavy caramel and cinnamon finished reminded me of cinnamon roles.

On later pours, that anise flavor took on more of an amaretto flavor which, mixed with the caramel took on a very rich brown sugar syrup flavor. But, and possibly thanks to those amaretto and anise notes, this bourbon was never too sweet, and always had that tingly spice at the end. It also developed a light woody dryness to it towards the end that, again, kept it from being too sweet.

This bourbon was very rich, oily in texture and creamy in character. It had a lot going on, with different flavors coming in to play around with the caramel, but never upstaging it. Whether or not this was truly the barrel that Binny's buyer liked best, I don't know, but I can certainly see why it would be his favorite. This was a great pour, and I already miss it!

Grade: A-

Friday, August 11, 2017

Valentine Distilling Co. Mayor Pingree 9 Year Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $80
- 117.2 Proof
- 9 Years
- Region: Indiana (bottled in Michigan)

This is another one of those bottles that my wife randomly surprised me with following a recent success at work. As I've mentioned in the past, she enjoys bringing home bottles that I haven't had before. She knows it makes me happy!

It's worth noting right off the top that this whiskey, bottled by Valentine Distilling Co. in Detroit and named after its former mayor in the late 1800's, Mayor Hazen Pingree, is an MGP-sourced bourbon. It is a well-aged MGP bourbon, though, and as a general rule, it's going to be decent. Whether it's worth the $80 price tag is always a question with these NDPs, though.

On the nose I get a lot of soft caramel and brown sugar. It smells sweet, and I also get a lot of corn, which is a bit surprising from an MGP bourbon. It has minimal burn on the nose and promises to be a tasty pour.

On the palate I get a lot of caramel and just a light amount of cinnamon. Up front it does not come across as very complex. It's easy to drink but not exactly dynamic or interesting.

However, on the finish it develops some appreciable complexity. The sweet caramel (which is clearly the most prominent takeaway flavor from this bourbon) continues from beginning to end, serving as the foundation upon which all the other flavors are added. However, on the finish (much unlike the front end) I get a light nuttiness, but not the more bitter walnut kind. Rather, it's kind of a cashew nuttiness, a sweeter kind that lingers for a bit. I also got a lot of warm amaretto notes that seem to stick around at the back of my throat forever.

After the bottle being opened for a few weeks, the bourbon seemed to open up quite a bit. Despite being a caramel-bomb from the beginning, it somehow managed to get sweeter and added some light baking spices towards the back end.

This bourbon really turned into a delicious and sweet (but not too sweet) bourbon. Despite the first few pours being somewhat mundane, towards the middle and end of this bottle, I found myself wanting it more and more, and by the end I was disappointed that it was gone. At first the $80 price tag seemed like a complete bust, but at least toward the end it was palatable (the price, that is--the bourbon was very good!).

Grade: B+

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Jefferson's Chef's Collaboration Blended Straight Whiskey

VITALS
- $40
- 90 Proof
- 2 Years
- Batch No. 12
- Region: Kentucky

This is one of those whiskeys that I've wanted to try for quite some time, but I saw it so frequently on the shelves that I seemed to always have something else I wanted to try first, not worrying that this would become difficult to find. And then it did, at least for a while. There was a dry spell where I actively looked for the Jefferson's Chef's Collaboration and just couldn't find it. Eventually, though, it came back to the shelves and appears to have a regular place once again. This time I didn't take the chance and finally grabbed a bottle.

Chef's Collaboration is, as it's name would suggest, a collaboration between Jefferson's and world-famous chef Edward Lee of the 610 Magnolia and Milkwood restaurants in Louisville. It's not a bourbon, however, but rather a blended whiskey, consisting of a blend of bourbon and rye, much like High West's Bourye, Wild Turkey's Forgiven or Smooth Ambler's Contradiction. Some of these blended bourbons and ryes have seen success, and some haven't, but in general I'd heard good things about Chef Lee's design, and I couldn't wait to try it for myself.

The first thing that I noticed is its color. I rarely comment on color, as it really seems to have no bearing on anything, but this was noticeably lighter than the other whiskeys sitting next to it on my shelf. I can't say that it's attributable to one thing or another, just merely an observation.

The nose is sweet and spicy. I get a lot of vanilla and caramel with the cinnamon spice you'd expect from the rye. In that sense it had me expecting something traditional and bold, despite its lighter color.

On the first pour, it came across as very smooth and certainly on the sweeter side. I got distinct molasses flavors, and even a hint of peach. It also had a long, spicy cinnamon finish that really complimented that peach note. The texture is a bit on the watery side, yet the finish was nonetheless long and flavorful.

Interestingly, I also got a mintiness in the finish, which created a bit of a strange balance with the spicy cinnamon notes. Long after each sip I got a sort of cooling in the throat, which was particularly noticeable once the spice subsided.

Even towards the end of the bottle, after being open for a while, that minty sensation remained. In fact, the flavor profile of this whiskey didn't really change at all over time. It's the most consistent bottle in that respect that I've had in a long time. The only really noticeable change was that I got a slight wood note in the last few pours. Nothing tannic or dry about it, just a slight woody flavor to it.

Although this is not an overly complex whiskey, it is nonetheless an interesting and flavorful one. The transition in flavors from front to back is what really sticks out. It's very sweet up front, spicy at the back end, and then it leaves you with a cool minty sensation once the flavors have kind of evaporated. It's a solid pour, and is probably offered at the right price. It's not spectacular, but it is full of flavor and very easy to drink.

Grade: B