Saturday, July 27, 2019

Willett Family Estate Binny's Select 5 Year Single Barrel Bourbon - Barrel #4759

- $90
- 128.6 Proof
- 5.5 Years
- Barrel #4759
- Kentucky

It had been a long time since I had seen a Willett Family Estate store pick hit the shelves. In fact, the last one that I saw was an 8-year single barrel rye that I picked up at Binny's back in April 2015--almost a four-year dry spell. So, when word got out that Binny's got in two bourbons (this one and a 6-year) and a rye, I knew I would be doing all I could to get my hands on any of them.

Luckily for me, I was able to get my hands on a bottle of the 6-year rye as well as this 5-year bourbon (which I was told was actually 5 1/2 years), and my buddy managed to get the 6-year bourbon. So I got the chance to try all three!  That was a few months ago that these went on sale, and the demand after such a long hiatus was incredible, and I felt very lucky.

The nose to this one was just soft and pillowy and very inviting in that sense. It had aromas of light baking spices and also a creamy nougat note to it. I also got somewhat of a fruity characteristic to it, like slightly under-ripe strawberries as well as a crisp pear note. Interestingly, I got almost zero alcohol on the nose. It smelled amazing, and the flavor followed suit!

This tasted far older than its 5 1/2 years. I got warm baking spices on the tongue immediately, along with a bit of a bready, yeast quality. The fruit notes were present as well. Although I didn't get the strawberry (I really wanted to find it but it just wasn't there), I still got the pear. However, it was more of a baked pear note, paired with sweet cinnamon. And yet, I still somehow got a refreshing and crisp quality out of this that I associate more with those fresh fruit notes.

The alcohol was certainly more noticeable on the palate than it was on the nose. However, it didn't seem to last long enough to get in the way of any of the other flavors. Along with the baked pear, I also got some earthy notes that I've always seemed to notice in Willett products, something a bit malt-like to them.  Here, it worked very well with everything else that was going on.

This had a super buttery texture to it, and that coating left behind a lingering pepper and cinnamon spice that seemed to last forever. It wasn't all spice, though, as there was also a distinct sweet note that lingered for a long time on the finish as well, kind of a hard candy quality that carried that pear and pepper.

I absolutely loved this bottle! And, I liked it significantly more than I did the 6-year that my friend picked up. As said above, it seemed like a much older whiskey, with a lot of complexity and an incredible mouthfeel that really emphasized all the delicious notes going on.  I'm sure most of these bottles are long gone at this point, but I'm very glad I was able to scoop this one up.  I miss it already!

Grade: A

Friday, July 26, 2019

Maker's Mark Private Select Binny's Beverage Depot - RW Kentucky Bourbon

- $70
- 109.4 Proof
- Finish: 2 Baked American Pure 2; 5 Seared French Cuvee; 1 Maker's 46; 2 Roasted French Mocha
- Kentucky

First, let me start off by saying that I tend to love the Maker's Mark Private Selects. Even at $70 a bottle, I consider it a great buy, because I've always gotten very good bottles, and sometimes I end up getting an absolutely great bottle! So, when my local liquor store guy told me that he had and a few other guys had picked four bottles for Binny's, I knew I'd have to grab the one he chose (designated by the "RW").

Mr. RW and I don't always see eye to eye on flavor. We don't always like the same thing, especially when it comes to anise notes in our bourbon. He's a huge fan while to me it's a complete turnoff. But, if I was going to try one of these four picks, there was no question I was going to give his a go.

The nose was pungent and full of rich caramel and spicy cinnamon notes. It was a great combo that made me salivate every time, like one of Pavlov's dogs. I also got some light cherry notes, and even a light chocolate note that I loved.

As for flavor, it was a lot more cinnamon forward. It also had a bit of dark chocolate, providing some sweetness as well as some bitterness to offset the sweet cinnamon. What I got as cherry on the nose seemed to come through as more of an amaretto note on the palate, and some coffee notes came through as well.

There's no question this was a sweeter whiskey, as at times it almost had a maple syrup flavor and sweetness to it. However, it was kept from being overly sweet by the slight bitterness that I attributed to the dark chocolate flavors, as well as the nice heat from the proof and the cinnamon spice. This was one bourbon where everything balanced really well and worked perfectly together to create a rich, bold and absolutely delicious bourbon.

The finish was likewise full of delicious cinnamon, a nice combination of sweet and heat. This bourbon had a nice, oily texture that really coated the mouth and throat, causing these flavors to linger for ever. I even got this buttery chocolate note that seemed to stick at the back of my throat, just out of reach of my taste buds but still back there adding another layer of flavor.

I feel like I may come across as a bit of a shill for this bourbon just because my guy picked it, but I assure you he's recommended multiple whiskeys that simply haven't done it for me, and I'm more than happy to let him know when my palate disagrees. However, with this pick, he hit it out of the park!

Grade: A

Monday, July 22, 2019

Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Rye

- $45 (1 Liter)
- 101 Proof
- Kentucky

I've always felt I've owed it to myself to give Wild Turkey 101 Rye a try. Being the rye lover that I am, and given that I really like other Turkey Ryes, not to mention that I'm a fan of Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, it just seemed like a glaring gap in the whiskeys I've tried.  So, I added it to my list and was going to make it a point to pick up a bottle.

And I could have sworn that this stuff was always on the shelf, that it'd be easy to find. But, that provided not to be the case.  My usual haunts did not seem to ever carry it. Places were I know I had seen it before were suddenly out. It was as though I made the conscious decision to finally pick up a bottle at the beginning of a WT 101 Rye drought.  The regular Wild Turkey rye was more than available, but by this point my mind was set.  Luckily for me, it made its way back, and this time I didn't hesitate to grab my bottle.

On the nose I got a heavy dose of cinnamon, which was not altogether unexpected.  I figured given that Wild Turkey bourbon is generally on the spicier side, I could expect no less, if not a whole bunch more, from their rye. So far it was not disappointing. I also got some light wood notes, kind of a saw dust quality. That woody quality was well balanced by a sweet caramel note, however. Finally, I noticed a bit of pine, which on later pours seemed to be even more pronounced.

As far as the flavor goes, this one really hit all the right notes for me in a rye. It had the nice spicy cinnamon layered over rich vanilla.  The pine from the nose also came through in the flavor, but not in any obtrusive fashion, rather just enough to notice it's there.

On the back end, a bit of mint seemed to make its way through, along with a Big Red type cinnamon note that lingered for a long while at the back of my throat.  The spicy character really lead the way from beginning to end with this one.

What really drove it home for me on this one, though, was the strong, underlying caramel note throughout each sip from front to back. It was the kind of smooth, creamy caramel note that I usually associate with a really good bourbon and that I don't always get in a rye. But here, that caramel note was prevalent from the tip of my tongue to the back of my throat, and it was delicious, working well wit the cinnamon, the pine, and even the mint in a weird way.

Now don't get me wrong, I realize this review was full of nothing but love, and this is not the greatest rye I've ever put to my lips. However, this review can be distilled down to this -- this is a really good rye that is well worth the price (particularly for a liter), will deliver on spice, and will remain consistent. While I don't repeat bottles too often, this is one that I will most certainly buy again to keep on hand.

Grade: B+

Saturday, July 13, 2019

New Riff Bottled In Bond Kentucky Straight Rye

- $45
- 100 Proof
- 4 years
- Bottled Spring 2019
- Kentucky

I could not have been more excited when New Riff finally made it into our market here in Illinois. In fact, I grabbed the Single Barrel Bourbon at the same time I grabbed this rye, and I ended up plowing through that bottle.  I had heard only great things about their bottled in bond rye, and so I held off on opening that one, saving it for a time when I was in the mood for a good rye (which, quite honestly, was only a few days after I finished the Single Barrel).

This is a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% malted rye, so 100% rye, which already differentiates it from pretty much every other rye out of Kentucky. New Riff is certainly aware of what's trending as well, as they state right on the front of their bottle that this is "without chill filtration." Just what us whiskey geeks want to see!

The nose was everything I've come to expect from younger ryes.  It had the usual cinnamon, but it also had a light sweetness to it, a sort of essence of caramel that was really nice. I did get a light pine note, which at times just came across as more of a woody or oak note. At times I got something floral off of it, but I had a hard time narrowing it down beyond that. It just came across as a light whiskey.

The palate was pretty consistent with the nose. It did not have any sort of viscosity to it, which lended to it coming across as a lighter whiskey on the palate as well.  Up front the light sweetness was there, somewhere between caramel and toffee--a bit more rich than what came across on the nose. There was also a fleeting but distinct mint note that came across the tip of my tongue.

Pine notes seemed to come through now and then, but other than that caramel note, none of the flavors seemed to linger very long. It had the nice cinnamon and peppery spice that I love in rye, and those flavors were in sufficient abundance to keep me going back for that next pour.

The finish was short, but it did have that nice balance of sweet and heat, with caramel and vanilla blending with cinnamon on the back end. I did find a bit of a dill flavor lingered after each sip, however, which, while certainly not offensive, just seemed to be out of place with everything else going on with this whiskey.

Ultimately, this is a very solid rye, and if you're a rye guy (or gal), by all means give this a go. While it may not have knocked my socks off, it fits solidly in the rye category and perhaps it'll do something more for you!

Grade: B

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Oppidan Cane + Rye Straight Malted Rye Whiskey Finished in Caribbean Rum Barrels

- $45
- 101 Proof
- 1 Year, 9 mos.; Finished for 1 1/2 years
- Batch No. 1
- Illinois

This is a bottle that came highly recommended to me. My local liquor store guy had tried Oppidan's products at a whiskey festival and he couldn't say enough great things about this local distillery from Wheeling, Illinois. While my guy's palate doesn't always coincide with mine, given his insistence, I had to give this a try.

This is a straight 100% malted rye whiskey that was then finished in Caribbean Rum casks for a year and a half. That's more than enough time to allow those barrels to impart the flavors of the rum they previously held. And in some respects, perhaps too much time.

The nose is incredibly sweet, which was not expected, with a health dose of cooked sugar. However, it also had vibrant notes of apricot and banana, which worked particularly well with the burnt caramel notes. It also had a certain bready quality to it, as well as hints of tobacco leaf, but those sweet fruits remained front and center. It also had a slight overripe apple note that I've always noticed in young whiskeys, showing its age (or lack thereof).

As soon as it hit my tongue all I could think was how sweet and sugary this was. It was, quite frankly too much. While I felt like I enjoyed it a bit more than the Angel's Envy rye, I nonetheless found it to be cloyingly sweet, to the point that it seemed to overshadow anything else that was going on in this whiskey.

Eventually some of the rye spice slowly made its way in, but too slowly for my taste. I like rye because it tends to smack you in the mouth with flavor and spice. This was almost afraid of being a rye. In addition to that subtle cinnamon spice that slowly made its way forward, I got a light pine note which seemed to only come through on the back end.

As I worked my way through the bottle, though, those pine and cinnamon flavors seemed to meld together, leaving this to be nothing more than sugar wood. That's all I got was oak and burnt sugar, and the fruit notes from the nose, which were so bright and delicious, never made their way into the flavor. And so, it was just sugar wood.

In retrospect, it's probably unfair to Oppidan that I chose this as my first foray into their whiskey. I have yet to get on board with rum finished whiskeys. I was really not a fan of the Angel's Envy rye, and I knew going in that that the odds of my enjoying this were slim.  This is, however, yet another reason to ignore whiskey reviews and try it out for yourself, because while I was not a fan, my local guy, who is a huge whiskey lover, couldn't get enough of this stuff. It's all a matter of preference

Grade: B-