Sunday, May 26, 2019

Weller Antique 107 Binny's Small Batch Select Batch #4 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $35
- 107 Proof
- Kentucky

A short while back a good friend of mine picked this bottle up for me. During this time I had a lot going on, and it was a really nice positive amongst a see of negative at the time. Did I mention he's a really good friend?

Weller Antique, which was once a regular shelfie, is now locked away in back rooms or displayed on shelves behind counters in nearly every store, either saved for their best customers or marked up beyond reason. The store picks seem to be even more sought after at this point, and so, as far as free bourbon goes, this is about as good as it gets!

While I've always preferred bourbon with rye as the tertiary grain, as far as wheated bourbons go, Weller Antique and Maker's Mark Cask Strength have always been my preference. This one had a nose that was a bit different from any previous Weller Antique I've had before. It had a very bready quality to it. It smelled sweet and reminded me a lot of graham cracker at first. At times I also got raisin notes, giving it a nice cinnamon raisin aroma as well. The nose was absolutely delicious on this one.

The flavor tended to match the nose, with cinnamon and raisin being the first to flavors I picked up. However, it wasn't quite as sweet as the nose. Rather, it had a spicier cinnamon note to it, as well as a distinct wood note that helped offset the sweetness. I still got that sweet, graham-crackery note to it as well.

As wheaters tend to be, though, this was still a sweeter bourbon. The sweetness really kicked in towards the middle of the palate, with a sugary and vanilla-like note, almost like cake frosting (which I love on graham crackers, by the way). It all seemed to work together for a sort of Frosted Flakes flavor.

The finish was very short-lived. It was sweet vanilla and corn notes, again taking me back to Frosted Flakes. But it was gone in an instant. I was actually surprised at the watery texture of this one, particularly given the proof and the fact that it's non-chill filtered. I guess those two things don't automatically mean you'll get an oily or buttery texture, as this one certainly came across a bit thin. This is about the only criticism I have for this pick, however.

Some buddies and I had this bottle among others for a whiskey tasting, including Weller Special Reserve, Weller 12 Year, Weller C.Y.P.B. and another private select single barrel. While the consensus favorite was the Weller 12 Year, this one got the nod from me. This was an excellent pick, and as I type this I sit here wishing I only had more.

Grade: A-

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Bulleit 12 Year Straight American Rye

- $50
- 92 Proof
- 12 Years
- Indiana

It's been a while since I've been genuinely excited for a non-allocated release, but when I found out that Bulleit was releasing a 12 year old version of their rye, I was going to make sure I snagged one right away. Bulleit Rye (sourced from MGP) has always been one of my mainstay ryes, and I loved the idea of an older version.

So, the day it hit the shelves I made my way to Binny's and grabbed a bottle, brought it home and put it on my shelf. And for some reason, that's where it sat, unopened, for almost two months. I can't really explain why, I just sort of never got around to it.  Apparently there were other bottles that took priority. But they shouldn't have. I love rye, and in particular I love MGP rye, and once I finally did open this bottle it wasn't long for this world.

One of the first notes that I got on the nose was butterscotch. I can't say that I ever got such a note out of other MGP ryes, so it kind of stuck out to me. I also got the familiar pine and cinnamon notes, though the cinnamon was somewhat faint. I also smelled apple cider, and all of these flavors blended together very well to provide a nice, complex and delicious aroma, yet it didn't come off as pungent. It was light and inviting (perhaps due to the proof).

On the palate I immediately noticed that familiar, sweet pine and cinnamon profile. In fact, these two flavors really dominated. Sweet pine seems like an odd description, even as I type this, but I think anyone familiar with MGP rye might understand what I'm getting at. The cinnamon was prominent and immediately noticeable on the tip of my tongue.

I also got some of the traditional toffee and vanilla notes, which added some richness and sweetness to the flavor. On later pours, these flavors seemed to blend together to just a straight brown sugar flavor, which balanced well with the cinnamon and pine notes.

On the finish, I got a sweet, lingering caramel note that seemed to coat my mouth from front to back. Despite the lower proof, this had a surprisingly long finish, which was capped off by a sweet, cooling mint note that I absolutely loved. In fact, I found I couldn't help but go back for that next sip right way in order to keep replicating that flavor and sensation.

While all of this is good, I did find that there was a light woody note to this rye. More age will do that, certainly.  However, this seemed to impart a tannic bitterness that, while I enjoy wood notes and even a bit of tannin in some whiskeys, simply didn't work in this one. This note stood apart from the other flavors and just detracted from the flavor.

That being said, I think I got what I expected out of this rye. It hit all those notes I love in a rye, with a bit of added complexity. I would have preferred this at a higher proof, especially at barrel strength (a girl can dream!), but for what it is, it met all of my expectations.

Grade: B+

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $50
- 93 Proof
- Kentucky

This review is a perfect example of why nobody should put much stock into reviews. After all, they are completely subjected and dependent upon the reviewer's subjective tastes. What I like you may hate, and vice versa. And so it goes with Old Forester 1910.

I loved Old Forester 1920. It was complex, flavorful and a great buy for the price. And when 1910 was released, the response was pretty much equal to that of 1920. People absolutely love this stuff across the board. Since I opened my bottle, I've kept my eye out for any naysayers or dissenters, and to date I haven't seen one in the group.

So now I find myself in the minority here (which is why you should take my review with a grain of salt and try this for yourself), because I really disliked this bourbon. In fact, in my mind it shouldn't even be called bourbon, because to me it just didn't taste like bourbon, but rather some liqueur with a bit of bourbon flavor to it.

To be fair, the nose on this is great. It's full of sweet brown sugar and has a buttery aroma to it that reminded me of french toast. I even got a little bit of peanut on the nose as well as a light maltiness to balance the sweet and buttery flavors. The nose was unique and really good.

Unfortunately, what followed was a bit of a sloppy mess. On my initial sips I got some unsweetened cinnamon and some burnt orange and bitter orange pith flavors. I also got a decent amount of almond.  From time to time a bright note of dried apricot came through. So far so good.

But then the off-putting flavors came through, and they did so in a big way, smacking my mouth with offensive flavors. First it was a weird farmhouse kind of funk. I don't know how best to describe it other than that it was vegetal in quality, almost like hay and green pepper.

And then I got the fake cherry flavor that absolutely put me off. I'm good with cherry notes typically, but the fake cherry is just awful, reminding me of cough syrup. I had hopes that this note would eventually go away, but it never did, and it offended my tongue from the first pour to the last.

I also got a lot of black licorice, and I mean a LOT. I like a good anise note in my whiskey from time to time, but this was simply too much, and it seemed to get progressively worse the more I drank. By the final pours from the bottle, it was as though someone had actually taken Jagermeister or Herbsaint and added it directly to the bottle. As I took notes one evening while trying to enjoy a pour of this, I actually wrote down, "Blech!"

I wanted to enjoy this bottle, I really did. It has great viscosity, is super rich and is full of flavor. For me, however, it's full of the wrong flavors to the point that fit was nearly undrinkable. I don't get it. It's rare that I diverge so greatly from the masses, who have universally loved this product. In fact, my father-in-law, who is relatively new to bourbon, declared this the best bourbon he's ever tasted.  I, however, will never let it touch my tongue again. And so, with that being said, reviews are stupid, please disregard everything you just read and try it for yourself.

Grade: C-

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Buffalo Trace Warehouse Liquors Single Barrel Select Barrel No. 042 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $31
- 90 Proof
- Kentucky

I've come to the conclusion that any time I come across a Buffalo Trace single barrel or even small batch select, just any Buffalo Trace store pick, I'm grabbing it. I always say the Knob Creek store picks are one of the best values out there at $40.  However, at $24-30, Buffalo Trace store picks might be just as good, assuming there's a place in your bourbon world for lower proof stuff.

Warehouse Liquors has always been right in my wheelhouse as well as far as private picks go, and this one was no different.  The nose had that nice, soft caramel that I love in Buffalo Trace products, as well as a ribbon of rich vanilla. These flavors seemed to blend a bit to give it a nice, graham cracker-y, molasses aroma that had me salivating. Additionally, there was a light peppery kick that only added to my excitement to try a sip.  As weird as it may sound, the nose on this is one of the best I've ever sniffed!

The flavors that immediately hit my tongue on first sip were cinnamon layered over vanilla. It had a nice, spicy tingle on the tip of my tongue, that was immediately supplanted by a sweet vanilla bean characteristic. It also had a nice yeasty quality, like a sweet soft bread. As I sipped on it my mind wandered to thoughts of King's Hawaiian dinner rolls.

As I made my way through the bottle, those sweet, decadent flavors persisted. However, other flavors developed that made this one of the more complex Buffalo Traces that I've had, and certainly more complex than most 90 proof bourbons.

What was once a sweet bread note now took on more of a graham cracker note, but like a lightly frosted graham cracker, as that vanilla was always present.  At times, I even caught light hints of a cocoa-gingerbread note that offered just the slightest bit of spice or tang. It wasn't enough to put me off, rather it was just enough to make it interesting.

The same can be said for the finish. In addition to the long, vanilla finish, I also got a cinnamon sugar toast note. The bread notes were still there, as well as this distant butter note in the background. The cinnamon sat in the back of my throat for a while long after each pour, but it still remained on the sweet side.  The black pepper from the nose never made an appearance, but I did get a light anise note on the finish, which for my tastes was enough of an anise note for me.

While the taste didn't quite live up to the nose, this was still a fantastic bourbon. Had I not already finished it, it would be the perfect bottle to keep on hand for when someone not so experienced with bourbon came by and wanted to try something delicious.  Perhaps I'll have to track down another bottle just for that purpose.

Grade: A-