Friday, February 22, 2019

Old Fitzgerald 9 Year Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $90
- 100 Proof
- 9 Years
- Kentucky

This was one of those pure-dumb-luck pick-ups for me. I've had the regular Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, and while it was a good pour, it just didn't strike me as something to chase down in the event there's ever a premium offering. However, being the opportunist that I am, I wasn't about to let one get away when I found it in the wild, and at retail, this despite it sitting next to an 11-year version at a significant markup.

While I typically don't comment on packaging or labels, in this case I will, because this is one beautiful bottle. Replace the cork stopper with a glass stopper and this would make an excellent, permanent decanter. As I'm writing this I'm trying to figure out something to do with it to keep from throwing it away. Perhaps now is the time to start an infinity bottle!

 The nose was soft, but very sweet. It was heavy on the caramel and brown sugar, but it also had a certain level of char to it as well. All in all it came across as a delicious creme brulee! It also had some light pepper balanced by a bit of sweet vanilla.  Although it may sound like a balanced and delicious dessert, it did have some rough edges on the aroma, just something sharp to it, perhaps from that pepper spice.

On the first couple pours, I really liked this bourbon. I found it to be soft and subtle, but what flavors were there were very enjoyable. I got an initial dose of caramel and vanilla, with even a bit of chocolate flavor to go with. There was a mild cinnamon undertone that I found to be enjoyable as well, even if I wished it were more prominent.

However, I found myself liking this one less and less as I worked my way through the bottle. It seemed to take on a certain dryness that wasn't there initially, creating a tannic, bitter note on the back of my tongue. I also found that I got a lot more corn up front the more of it that I had. This made it hot without being spicy. 

It did develop a nice amaretto flavor that I really enjoyed, only I wish there were more of it. That flavor seemed to disappear pretty quickly, turning into more of a cardboard note. And yet, it still remained sweet, which just didn't jive.

I really wanted to like this one, and at first I thought I was going to. It drank like an easy sipper with good, albeit subtle notes of caramel and vanilla. However, I eventually started to notice flavors that just either weren't as enjoyable or did not seem to work with the other flavors. I heard good things about these releases, and the 9-year in particular, but this one just didn't do it for me. It was good, but certainly did not live up to expectations.

Grade: B-

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $35
- 117 Proof
- 7 Years
- Kentucky

Old Ezra has been on the shelves for quite a long time now, without very much fanfare at all. At most, all I had heard was that their 7 year, 101 proof bourbon is a "solid pour," something I've heard said about many otherwise sub-par bourbons. So, I've never given it a whole lot of thought. However, seemingly out of nowhere, Luxco released a barrel strength bourbon, and suddenly there was this Old Ezra product out there that became a must-have.

In this case, I'm sure price had played a significant role. After all, how many other barrel proof bourbons at this age (or younger for that matter) can you find on the shelves for $35-40?  With that price and with reviewers consistently giving it high marks, I had to track it down. Best of all, that didn't prove to be a very difficult task, merely involving walking into my local store and asking for it.

The nose came across as a mix of vanilla, cloves and cinnamon. It had that spicy baking aroma that reminds me of Christmas time. Complementing the vanilla and cinnamon was this unsweetened apple note that really put the exclamation point on it.  It smelled rich and sweet, but also had that balance of oak to temper that sweetness. Most noticeably, however, was how pungent was. These aromas weren't merely "there," but are strong and up front. The alcohol was strong as well, giving a nice burn, but that seemed to fade away pretty quickly.

Right up front I was hit with a heavy dose of cinnamon which sat on the tip of my tongue. Slowly, however, other notes seemed to overcome that cinnamon note. I got a nice, sweet maple syrup note, along with a bright cherry. Those flavors blended into a delicious combination. This bourbon had a nice, oily texture to it, that allowed the flavors to stick around for quite a while and kind of meld together.

On the back end, I got a lot of brown sugar and sweet cinnamon, like red hots candies. That was balanced, however, by a mild vanilla bean flavor. I also still got that cherry note, although on the back end it reminded me more of cooked cherries. That cooked cherry note lingered for a long time on the finish, which is quite frankly what I think made me decide that I love this bourbon.

The only minor quibble was on the finish, though, where I got a slight tannic bitterness that, along with the heat from the high proof, seemed to distract from all the other good flavors that were going on.

I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine about my reviews, and he was of hte mind that reviews should be done in a vacuum, with no consideration of price. While I understand his viewpoint, this is one of those bottles that reminds me why I take price into consideration when I'm giving my grade. Because, if this were a $55 bottle, like Booker's or Stagg Jr., it would probably be right on par, perhaps even receiving a slightly lower grade. But at the $35-40 range, this is an incredible bourbon for the price, one worth stocking up on.

Grade: B+/A-

Saturday, February 9, 2019

J.W. Dant Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $23/1 Liter
- 100 Proof
- Kentucky

I feel like it's been some time since I've visited a regular shelfie. Lately I've had various limited releases or store picks, and I'm certainly not complaining. However, there are still so many standard offerings at great prices lining the shelves that I have yet to give a try. So, with this bottle, I'm making a conscious effort to get back to trying more of these "everyday" whiskeys.

J.W. Dant intrigued me because it checks so many boxes for me: (1) it's bottled in bond, which means it's higher proof, but not high proof; (2) it's a Heaven Hill product, who does bottled in bond bourbons so well; (3) it's at a great price point; and (4) you get a little bit more whiskey given that it comes in a liter bottle.  On top of all that, of the mentions or reviews I've seen around the web and on social media, it's regarded pretty favorably.

The nose on this whiskey is absolutely delicious. If I graded the nose only, it'd be an A+.  It had a nice, chocolate and salted caramel smell, almost like the smell of a sweets shop. There was also a very light smokey quality that I didn't expect but certainly loved. I don't know if it came from the grain or not, but I also got a distinct caramel corn note. The nose absolutely had me salivating and diving in for that first sip.

Although this bourbon was a bit thin in texture, it still had some pretty bold flavors. Most noticeable was a woody, walnut flavor. It had that earthy walnut quality with the slightest bit of bitterness. At times the bitterness seemed to come from an orange peel note, but I didn't seem to get that consistently. This was all rounded out by a light note of sweet vanilla, like vanilla bean, and even a light milk chocolate flavor. The sweetness and the earthy bitterness all seemed to work really well together, as I found neither one to come anywhere close to being off-putting.

Throughout my enjoyment of this bottle, it was generally sweet with a light, spicy finish. That caramel corn note that I got on the nose even appeared once in a while, and I really wished that flavor had suck around a bit longer on the finish. However, after each sip I had a rich toffee flavor lingering on my lips that I really enjoyed. It was almost surprising, as I didn't get a strong toffee note on the palate. 

That toffee note also made for an interesting mix with the clove spice that stuck at the back of my throat, and lingered there for far longer than I expected given the thin texture. Again, it wasn't strong, but it was still a nice contrast. Not much more than that was happening on the finish, but it was nonetheless very enjoyable.

Although I didn't find this whiskey to be too complex (its nose was far more complex than its taste), it was still delicious and easily a regular drinker.  Its easy to find and can be had for a great price, it's got enough heat without too much heat, and though the flavors aren't complex, they're still very tasty and very up front. I absolutely could (and did) drink this day after day.

Grade: B