Sunday, August 26, 2018

Elijah Craig Small Batch The Pride Private Selection Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $26
- 94 Proof
- Kentucky

I've never had a store pick of Elijah Craig before, but when I got the idea in mind to do an Elijah Craig tasting at work, I figured it would make a great addition to the tasting, and I knew where I could easily and quickly (not to mention cheaply) get my hands on one. It just so happened that it was at a gas station liquor store.  Or, to put it more accurately, at a liquor store adjacent to the gas station after which it's named.

At our tasting, which featured the normal small batch, this store pick, two versions of the barrel strength and the 18-year, this one seemed to fare pretty well. Overall it was well-accepted, and it realistically would probably have taken third place if we were keeping any kind of accurate score.

On the nose it's more or less what I expected from Elijah Craig. I got the traditional caramel and vanilla with only a light cinnamon and peppery spice. The alcohol, as expected, was minimal to non-existent, allowing the aroma to really take hold. It smelled sweet up front and gave a good indication of what was to come.

On the palate, that sweetness certainly carried over. The sweet caramel on the tip of the tongue was the first thing I noticed, and that eventually transformed to more of a burnt sugar flavor. It still had that sugary sweetness, but it also had that char note to tone down that sweetness jut a bit.

It also had a hint of dark fruit, like plum. I feel like when I get those dark fruit notes I always fall back on plum. Perhaps I need to eat more dark fruits to expand my palate a bit, but that's what I get. It wasn't dark cherry, or blackberry, but a more mellow and less berry flavor of plum.

The texture was more on the watery side, which was to be expected. What wasn't expected, however, was the silky feel that came along with. It had the mouthfeel of an aged Scotch, which tend to be lower in proof. It lacked the viscosity, but had a rare smoothness to it that I typically associate with more malt-forward whiskeys. This was a pleasant surprise.

Towards the end of the bottle, the vanilla really came to the forefront, mixing with a brown sugar sweetness that reminded me a bit of coffee cake. As is so often the case, I found those last few pours to be the best of the bunch.

This bottle was certainly better than the standard offering, and whoever is doing the selecting for The Pride did a pretty good job. It didn't blow my mind or anything, but given that it cause just as much as regular small batch, which itself is a great bourbon for the price, this one was really a no-brainer!

Grade: B+

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Buffalo Trace Binny's Small Batch Select Batch #22 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $26
- 90 Proof
- Batch #22
- Kentucky

Who loves free whiskey?!?!?  I sure do! I'll try not to let that influence this review, but I had helped a buddy work though most of this particular bottle, and with a handful of pours left, he handed it over to me. Good friend? Or sucker? Who's to say?

Either way, I've had nothing but positive experiences with store selections of Buffalo Trace, and it's absolutely a great bang for your buck. This one certainly proved to be no different.

The nose is heavy on the caramel, something I've expected from Buffalo Trace bourbon. It also had a nice, mellow vanilla undertone, and there was even a bit of black pepper there to tickle the nose with some spiciness. Overall, the nose was inviting and flavorful.

The flavor was very sweet up front. It was a nice mix of sweet vanilla, like vanilla bean ice cream, along with some rich molasses. It even leaned, at times, towards a maple syrup note. It kind of reminded me of pancakes after they've become soggy from the butter, syrup and melted whipped cream.

This certainly came across as a dessert-like whiskey. What I think I liked most about it, is also what surprised me most about it. Despite being a 90 proof whiskey, it had a very oily mouthfeel, like you usually get with higher proof whiskeys. This seemed to add to the complexity of what is otherwise a pretty straight-forward, simple bourbon. It added depths that not only gave off individual flavors of vanilla and caramel, but combined those flavors to remind me of something more elaborate, like warm pecan pie.

In fact, as I got that note I realized that there was a certain nutty quality to this bourbon that I had been tasting all along, but I hadn't quite put my finger (my tongue?) on it. That's what gave it that warm pecan pie flavor. It had all the parts, the graham flavor of the crust, the nutty quality of the pecan, the caramel and molasses flavor of the filling, and even the vanilla flavor of a dollop of whipped cream on top.

I realize as I'm typing this that I'm making this sound like the most amazing bourbon ever. It wasn't that. However, it was really damn good, and I wish I had grabbed a bottle or two to bunker when this was released. This was like a significantly better version of an already very good bourbon, and at an amazing price!

Grade: B+

Friday, August 17, 2018

High West Double Rye! Blend of Straight Rye Whiskeys

- $20/375 ml
- 92 Proof
- Batch No. 15K05
- Utah

I am admittedly a High West fanboy. It's the only distillery I've been to multiple times, I've made friends with some of their employees, and I constantly recommend their products to friends and strangers. I've even branded my car with their logo. And yet, I've never gotten around to reviewing one of their flagship offerings -- Double Rye!

I've reviewed many versions of Double Rye!, private selections from different stores with various finishes. And though I've had it a million times, I never got around to giving it a proper review here. This bottle, which was handed to me by a former work colleague as he left the office for greener pastures, gave me just that opportunity!

The nose is sweet, a nice blend of cinnamon and molasses. It gave it that deep, sweet note balanced by the cinnamon spice typical of ryes. It's what drew me to rye in the first place, and I was very pleased to get some of these traditional notes. It also had a layer of vanilla along with a slight pine note. Interestingly, there was also a hint of something fruity, like raspberry, that was hard to notice at first, but once I did I couldn't not notice it.

The first thing I noticed when I took a sip was how easy it was to drink. I realize it's not a super-high proof, but it went down dangerously easy. One quality that stood out right away was a malty note that I don't usually get it rye. Perhaps this is what helped make it so easy to drink. It didn't come close to tasting like Scotch or anything, but it just had that smooth, sippable quality to its flavor.

Of course, the most prevalent flavors were brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. The sweet vanilla was right up front, but quickly that cinnamon spice came in and lingered long after each swallow. Somewhere in the middle the brown sugar took on more of a burnt sugar note. That was balanced by an almond extract type flavor as well.

The cinnamon spice wasn't a sweet spice, and at times it came across more as a black pepper spice at the back of my throat. Towards the end of the bottle, I started noticing a light coating of caramel in my mouth and throat as well, and between that and the spice, it had me reaching for that next sip almost immediately.

It's no wonder I've enjoyed grabbing the store selects and finished versions of this rye. This really has everything I look for in a rye, and for being their sort of base-line product, it offers a lot of flavor and complexity. This is very good, and well-worth the price!

Grade: B+

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Elijah Craig Small Batch Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon 2017 Batch No. C917

- $60
- 131.0 Proof
- 12 Years
- Batch No. C917
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles that I lucked into and simply couldn't hesitate to grab it off the shelf. I was just in my local grocery store and, on a whim, figured I'd check out the whiskey selection, and there was this bottle, and at more or less retail! The batch that was released prior to this one (B517) won all sorts of accolades, and I found it to be a superb whiskey when I had the chance to try it. So, I was looking forward to giving this one a go.

I managed not to crack it until just a few weeks ago when I hosted a whiskey tasting with a flight of various Elijah Craig offerings, including Elijah Craig Small Batch, a store select single barrel, the 2017 release of the 18 year single barrel, Release #11 of the Barrel Proof and this bottle. Although the results were close, this bottle came out as the favorite of the five among our group.

On the nose I got a nice, light amount of wood notes. It wasn't an oak bomb by any means, but just enough to appreciate it. Those wood notes seemed to go great with the cinnamon and heat that came off the top, blending well to an almost piney scent.

On the palate, it's immediately sweet and rich up front. That sweet richness really hides the alcohol, as the burn was minimal. Instead, my mouth was coated with almost syrupy liquid layering caramel and vanilla over a toasty, burnt sugar flavor that was amazing.

Almost as if to make sure it didn't come off as too sweet, the heat that I was expecting up front finally came through on the back end, adding a nice burn on the back of that caramel richness. However, eventually that heat subsided, as it usually does, and I was left with a lingering caramel note that just coated my entire mouth and throat.

On later pours other notes seemed to come through, working to complement the dominant caramel notes, with hints of orange peel and maraschino cherry coming through, reminding me of a less spicy old fashioned. Though these other flavors seemed almost fleeting, they offered a nice, subtle but vibrant note to go along with the delicious, rich (did I mention this whiskey is rich?) caramel, vanilla and burnt sugar tones.

All in all, this was a dessert bourbon if I ever had one. The mouthfeel was thick and viscous, the flavors were sweet and rich, the burn was even welcome to cut the sweetness, and in the end my mouth felt coated as though I had been eating soft caramels for the past hour. This bourbon was absolutely fantastic, and I loved it even more than the previous release, which itself was pretty spectacular!

Grade: A+