Monday, November 19, 2018

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

- $70
- 110.4 Proof
- Kentucky

I feel like I've been seeing more of these Maker's Mark Private Selects on shelves these days, with the big box stores getting four at a time, and even the little guys getting in on the game with their own private selections. All in all, it's not a bad thing, particularly where I'm typically such a fan of these. However, where before I grabbed these bottles without thinking twice, now even just a little bit of saturation has me seeing what else there may be first.

However, when Binny's got in a new batch of these, and I just happened to be there with a friend who understands my willingness to bend to peer pressure, at his suggestion we each grabbed a bottle to taste and compare. And, naturally, I don't regret it.  That being said, however, I think his bottle was better than mine.  C'est la vie.

The particular breakdown of oak finishing staves added to this barrel is as follows:

I have a tendency to gravitate to the ones with the Roasted french Mocha or the Toasted French Spice. I think this is because the first couple Private Selects I ever had absolutely blew me away, and I find myself trying to recreate that experience. So, I look for the same usage of staves. Unfortunately, I've never quite been successful in that endeavor.

The nose on this one was kinda weird. It was malty and grainy, along with a decent amount of ethanol, which never seemed to fade away, even on the last few pours. In addition, it had an interesting citrus note on the nose, like orange peel, adding a bit of bitterness that seemed to mix with an out-of-place peanut scent. All in all, the nose was . . . weird. These different aromas, while making the nose complex, just didn't seem to jive together

The flavor, however, was not weird or confusing, but was actually really tasty! It had this floral note (something I usually get in single malts, not bourbons), almost like a lavender flavor. I know, right away it seems weird, but that flavor seemed to merely add something unique (and inoffensive) to the more traditional caramel and vanilla flavors that really stood out.

This was unquestionably a sweeter bourbon, even more so compared to other wheated bourbons. However, it carried this nice buttery quality to it as well, with an almost creamy mouthfeel, that reminded me of the kind of brown sugar and butter crumble you'd put on top of a cobbler. At other times, the buttery, buttery and sweet qualities reminded me of funnel cake. Either way, this was delicious and sweet.

I realize that taste is what matters most, and in this category, this bourbon was amazing. However, the nose on this one really threw me off. Even on the last couple pours I still got not only the strong ethanol note, but that weird citrus note was not only present, but was unavoidable. If this didn't smell so odd, it would have received top marks from me. Nonetheless, this was still very delicious, and I found it hard to go to other bottles before finishing this one first

Grade: B+/A-

Friday, November 16, 2018

Bomberger's Declaration Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2018)

- $45
- 108 Proof
- Batch No. 18C316
- Kentucky

I have never been lucky enough to come across a Bomberger's Declaration or a Shenk's Homestead in the wild, to just be able to grab them off the shelf. A few weeks ago, however, that luck changed, and just in passing while buying wine for my wife I came across this bottle sitting on the shelf. Without hesitation I grabbed it and headed to the register. And then I forgot about it for a few weeks. I guess I just had other good stuff to get through first.

Eventually, though, I got around to opening this, and I really wish I had done so sooner! The nose was sweet and almost savory all at once. I was immediately hit with anise and clove, the kind of spices that are somewhat sweet, but that sweetness is constantly buried by the cinnamon spice and wood tones. It also smelled rich, if that makes sense. My mouth immediately started watering at the idea of tasting these complex and deep notes I got off the nose.

When I took the first sip, I knew immediately that I had something really good in my hands! I haven't had that experience in quite some time where I knew it was great from the second it touched the tip of my tongue. Up front it was initially sticky sweet maple and brown sugar, which oddly didn't really match the nose, but was nonetheless absolutely delicious.

Other flavors seemed to slowly make their way to the stage, including a nice, smooth vanilla note throughout, and that wonderful spicy cinnamon on the back end that I love the most. The juxtaposition of the sticky sweet front end and the spicy back end was absolutely spectacular.

It has a nice, oily quality to it, too, that makes that finish last forever. As it stuck around, that spicy note seemed to fade, only leaving the lingering sweet vanilla flavor. It reminded me kind of the way Fireball jawbreakers dissolved from spicy cinnamon to whatever that sweet center of the candy is.  It was like that, only a thousand times better tasting.

Throughout it maintained a slight, earthy and woody tone, which really helped keep it from being too sweet. Other than the very front end, it had an excellent balance of sweet, spicy and woody.  It all worked together to make a sort of cinnamon and dark chocolate treat.

I'm a fan of Michter's products, though I wouldn't say I'm a BIG fan. I just think they make quality products and would never turn one away. This, however, tells me that they can really make an outstanding bourbon. I loved everything about this from beginning to end. This was one of the best surprises I've had in a while. Grab it if you can!!

Grade: A

Friday, November 9, 2018

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Release #11

- $70
- 139.8 Proof
- 12 Years
- Release #11
- Kentucky

I do love a good heater, and these old label releases of Elijah Craig certainly do the trick. These are certainly the hottest bourbons I've had, and this one, clocking in at 139.8 proof, might be the highest proof whiskey I've ever had, though I'd have to verify that. It's certainly the highest proof whiskey I've reviewed here.

This particular bottle came from the influx of ECBP that my local liquor store got in a couple years back. My wife seemed to pick me up a bottle every time she went. I figured they were all from the same batch, until some months later I realized that this one bottle was a different proof than all the rest, thus from a different batch. Here I had been holding onto it thinking it was a back-up, and it was a whole new bottle altogether! It kinda made my day.

The nose is, as expected, very hot! After popping the cork for the first time, I made the mistake of sticking my nose right to the mouth of the bottle. That was quite some time ago at this point, though, so rest assured I've recovered since then. After that ethanol burned off, though, some tasty caramel and tangy amaretto notes came through. I also got a distinct malty note that I didn't expect. Towards the end, while it seemed to get sweeter on the nose, it also developed a sort of leather aroma, which weirdly worked.

The flavor is spicy cinnamon up front and spicy cinnamon on the back. In fact, the back end even took on a bit of a black pepper spice. My point is, it was spicy . . . and, of course, hot. The burn from the alcohol seemed to exaggerate the cinnamon and pepper spice.

However, beneath all that spice there was a consistent layer of brown sugar, a bit of sweetness to help tone it down. That amaretto note also came through pretty noticeably, adding a bit of tanginess to the mix.

I think one of my favorite characteristics to come through, though, didn't make an appearance until about the last third of this bottle. I got a distinct dark chocolate flavor that once I noticed I couldn't ignore. I'm not much of a fan of dark chocolate itself, but as a tasting note in my whiskey, I thought it was great! It worked so well with the brown sugar and cinnamon to create this rich and decadent dessert like quality, but with a heavy spice that kept it grounded.

I also loved the texture of this one. It was so buttery and oily that my mouth just remained coated in flavor long after each sip (and that's all it took was a sip). I think that's partly why it took so long for me to work my way through my bottle is that just a little bit would go a long way, and in more ways than one. This was yet another fantastic bottling of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof!

Grade: A