Thursday, August 29, 2019

Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel Bottled In Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $80
- 100 Proof
- Kentucky

This is one of those use-to-be-on-the-shelf-all-the-time bottles. Yet, in the past year or so, it seems to have nearly disappeared (a not uncommon experience when it comes to Buffalo Trace products).  It was always one of those bottles that I eventually wanted to try, but, figuring it'd always be there, was never a priority. After having not seen in on the shelves in quite some time, though, I took the opportunity to buy one when it came, even over some more desirable Buffalo Trace products that were available that day.

So far, I've only had the rye and the barrel proof from the E.H. Taylor line up, and while I've enjoyed what I've had, I've never fawned over these bottles like I see so many others do. But, I went into this one with an open mind.

The nose on this one was fantastic. It had a nice buttery cinnamon and caramel smell to it, like some rich and delicious dessert. I also got some almond as well as some beer-y yeast and even a bit of a nutty note as well.  All in all it gave of this sweet and familiar caramel apple note, with the apple note adding a bit of crispness to the nose.  Overall it was incredibly inviting.

The first thing that I noticed about this whiskey is that it was very smooth (yes, I know . . . but in this context I mean that despite being at 100 proof, the alcohol burn seemed nonexistent) and easy to drink. Perhaps dangerously so. 

As for flavor, I got a decent amount of amaretto and caramel, along with some light vanilla.  It was full of these rich, bakery-esque flavors. It even had that bready quality, kind of a yeast note similar to what I got on the nose.

This was all offset by a spiciness that was kind of a blend of cinnamon and white pepper. It had the sweeter and woody spice of the cinnamon, along with the bight of the white pepper that seemed to stick in the back of my throat for a bit.  The finish seemed relatively short, but that spicy tickle really lingered.

I also got a decent amount of wood notes on this bourbon, more than I expected really. It added a bit of dryness to a bourbon that was otherwise on the sweeter end.

All in all, I would like this as a standard go-to pour. But, for the price, it just can't be that.  I really wanted more out of this bottle, but it really was more good than great, and it didn't do much at all to separate itself from the crowd.

Grade: B

Friday, August 23, 2019

Three Rivers Distilling Franklin B. Rye Whiskey

- $35
- 95 Proof
- 6 Months
- Batch 6
- Indiana

Occasionally my work causes me to travel to far away and exotic places. Well, not really, but lately I've had to travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana quite a bit, to the extent that I've managed to identify all the decent shops in the area. On one of my scouting expeditions one night, I stopped into one shop that had a really good selection of Indiana whiskeys, and I figured it was about time to take a shot at something local.

Having no familiarity with any of the brands I was seeing on the shelf, I took to reading the bottles and the backstories. This particular bottle intrigued me. Not only is Three Rivers Distilling local to Fort Wayne, and not just Indiana in general, but it is also veteran owned. While the whiskey was notably young, I figured my money could certainly go to worse places, so I grabbed a bottle hoping for the best.

I popped open the cork and the first thing I noticed was that this smelled super young, which was certainly to be expected.  I got far more corn notes on the nose than I should in a rye. I also got that over-ripe apple note that I seem to find in young bourbons, as well as a weird sort of vegetal quality, almost a bell pepper smell. At times I seemed to get black pepper, and at other times I noted a sort of sugar cookie smell, but both of these notes were fleeting and inconsistent.

I will say that the flavor was certainly more enjoyable than the nose, but that was a pretty low bar. It was very sweet up front, and had some traditional notes of cinnamon and light pine, with even a slight mint note on the back end. However, what actual flavor there was to this whiskey was overwhelmed by that up front sweetness. This was almost cloyingly sweet, with almost a corn syrup quality to it.

On the finish, the light peppery spice did manage to find its way through. I also got a bit of a cinnamon applesauce flavor, which I again associated with the fact that this is a very young whiskey.

As I worked my way through this bottle, I just didn't find anything to change my impression of this whiskey. It remained cloyingly sweet throughout and always had that weird, over-ripe apple flavor to it. It did develop a slight smokey note which I thought was interesting, but as I had my last few pours of this bottle, my sole impression was that this was simply way to sweet, and it was incredibly harsh. I really struggled to finish it, unfortunately. 

As much as I wanted to like this, and there were a few hints of goodness from time to time, I just couldn't find much to enjoy.

Grade: C-

Saturday, August 17, 2019

1792 Full Proof Bruno's Liquors Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $45
- 125 Proof
- Kentucky

I recently took a trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with my wife, just an evening with just the two of us. Beforehand, however, I just happened to see some Facebook recommendations for good bourbon stores and restaurants in Lake Geneva, and one of the recommendations was Bruno's Liquors.

So, romance be damned, I made it a point to get over to Bruno's to see what they had to offer. For the most part, their whiskey selection was pretty decent, though it was a lot of stuff that I can find on the shelves by me. However, right up front they showcased two store picks they had recently gotten in--a Buffalo Trace single barrel and this one. Of course I grabbed them both, much to the chagrin of my wife.

I've been a big fan of pretty much every bottle of 1792 Full Proof I've picked up to date, so I cracked into this one first. Upon opening the bottle, I was immediately hit with strong scents of brown sugar and orange peel. It almost had an Old Fashioned smell to it. It also had a nice cinnamon spice on the nose that tickled just a bit, and some wood tones carried through as well. This was all seemingly layered over a subtle but ever-present caramel note.

The flavor was a bit different from the nose. Rather than getting that brown sugar and orange peel up front, the cinnamon was probably the most forward flavor, along with a distinct chocolate flavor. I've encountered this combination before, and while I do love finding both flavors in my whiskeys, together they tend to make a bit of an odd combination.

However, there was a lot more going on with this as well. I got a distinct candied cherry note, not the cough syrup kind of flavor, but also not the fresh cherry flavor. Perhaps more along the lines of a maraschino cherry flavor.

There was a bit of an oak flavor which, along with the heat from the high ABV, added a touch of harshness to this bourbon. I found that it had this sort of weird tongue-numbing quality, something that I've found before in foods where too much liquid smoke was used. I realize that's probably not very relatable to anyone reading this, but that's where my mind when as I was tasting this.

There was also this anise or licorice flavor to it, which, along with the wood notes, left a bit of an odd flavor behind after each sip. The orange peel bitterness seemed to linger for a bit, and between all that and that weird numbing quality, I had a hard time enjoying the finish.

And yet, on the last few pours, the sweet brown sugar and pleasant cinnamon spice was all I really noticed, with the bitterness and weird numbing thing having gone by the wayside.  I really wish the rest of the bottle were like those last two or three pours, because I found them to be asbolutely delicious.  This was a bit of a schizophrenic bottle, so I'm finding it hard to attribute a grade to it, because different pours could have been anything from a C- to an A, so I've got to park this one somewhere right in the middle.  Now to open that Buffalo Trace!

Grade: B

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Buffalo Trace Jewel-Osco Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Barrel No. 528

- $24
- 90 Proof
- Barrel No. 528

If there is one thing that Jewel-Osco is known for, it's their incredible private picks . . . no, that's not right. It's their incredibly refined palate . . . no, that's not right either. In the bourbon world, at least around me, Jewel is primarily known for occasionally having Blanton's in stock at retail, and that's just about it.

Yet, despite not being actively in the market for Blanton's, and knowing that I'm not going to find much else, I nonetheless wandered into the whiskey aisle during a shopping trip, and I saw all the usual suspects sitting on the shelf.  Then something caught my eye.  Was that a sticker?!?  I quickly pulled a bottle of Buffalo Trace off the shelf, figured I must have seen something, turned the bottle in my hands, and sure enough, it was a Jewel-Osco Single Barrel Select! I had no clue such a thing existed.  So, of course, at only $24 a bottle, I picked one up, because what the hell, why not?!?

I got home and cracked it right away, because quite frankly my curiosity was getting the best of me. On the nose I immediately got caramel and almond, almost a hint of amaretto. I also detected a certain amount of Maraschino cherry as well. Later on, after making my way through a good portion of the bottle, I got hints of dark chocolate, and it also seemed to sweeten up quite a bit, providing a rich, dark molasses note.

Flavor-wise, it seemed to follow suit with the nose. On the first few pours, I got primarily burnt sugar and oak. It was more char and wood than I expected from a Buffalo Trace. The sugars were there, but they were buried. It was as thought it wanted to be sweet but just wasn't quite there. I also got a bit of a cherry cough syrup note, which is always a bit of a turn off for me.

However, as with the nose, after a number of pours from this bottle, it sweetened up significantly. Rather than char and sugar on top of wood, it turned into something far more delicious ad interesting. I got more of a brown sugar tone to it, and a certain amount of cinnamon also came through.

I also got a certain bread quality, which together with these "developed" other flavors gave it a sort of cinnamon french toast quality that I really liked.  Unfortunately, though, that fake cherry flavor still seemed to linger as well, and it just didn't fit. While the flavor softened, it still retained a bit of that medicinal quality that I do find off-putting, and it was really weird with that bready, yeasty flavor that developed.

All in all, if Jewel-Osco released another private selection of Buffalo Trace, I assure you I'd grab that as well.  While it has some off notes for me, overall it was still a tasty bourbon at a great price, and it was fun to see what I was going to get with such a pick.

Grade: B-

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Sav-Way Private Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon Barrel #7387

- $40
- 120 Proof
- Kentucky

Sav-Way is a small little liquor store near me that has three different locations. They usually have a pretty decent whiskey selection, and I make it a point to pop in from time to time to see what's new. I've been able to find some decent bottles at their shops from time to time at decent prices, although they do have a tenancy to significantly mark up their more allocated stuff.

One day while perusing their shelves looking for something to drink for the night, I settled on a private selection of Knob Creek they had. I feel like I've been drinking a lot of these lately (not necessarily a bad thing), and this particular one didn't have any information, such as age, entry proof, warehouse, etc.  Unfortunately, the person working there that night didn't have that information either. Nonetheless, given my overwhelmingly positive experiences with Knob Creek private selections, I decided to give this one a spin.

On the nose I immediately noticed the alcohol. It was really hard to escape, and it was considerably more noticeable than I recall from other Knob Creek private selections. Certainly after being open a bit that alcohol burn died down some, but it remained stronger than any others I've had.

That being said, behind the alcohol I got the more traditional notes of rich caramel and toffee. I also got a decent amount of oak on the nose, and I could even detect the tannins. Finally, there was a healthy dose of cinnamon, and that note seemed to get heavier with each sniff.  All in all, while it may seem otherwise as I describe it, I actually really enjoyed this nose. It all worked well to create a rich, complex and spicy aroma.

The flavor was also heavy on the tannins, which really gave this bourbon a decent amount of bite. It made me wonder just how old this bourbon was. I got significantly more oak than I'm used to getting in the 10-12 year range. There was also a decent amount of vanilla and cinnamon to lend to some of the more traditional bourbon notes.

However, with each pour I kept getting this flavor that I just couldn't put my finger on. It was kind of earthy, kind of spicy and kind of vegetal  About half way through I had my a-ha moment, and was able to identify that odd flavor as pumpkin spice. I can't say that I've ever had such a note in any of my previous reviews, and perhaps that's why I had such a hard time placing it. 

The wood and spice were balanced out by a sweet brown sugar that was present from front to back.  On the finish I got a light cooling mint note as well, something I find far more often in ryes. Though it was light, it was definitely there and it seemed to stick around for a while.

Overall, this was a very good bourbon (further cementing my belief that Knob Creek picks are always worth the gamble).  It's not the best thing that I've ever put in my mouth, but it was rich complex and interesting, and I really enjoyed each pour.

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey

- $22
- 100 Proof
- Kentucky

I was just on vacation in Oregon, and we spent our first night in Portland city limits.  Actually, we were in a hotel on an island on the river, and there was one liquor store within walking distance. Of course, we arrived on a Sunday, so I had to wait until my second day to make my first liquor store run. Unfortunately, the selection was just meh.

I had actually grabbed a rye from a local distillery, figuring even if it were bad, at least I was trying something local and regional. However, when I chose a bottle and carried it to the counter (I won't name names), the clerk looked at it and immediately informed me that it was terrible, while wearing one of the distillery's shirts, I might add. 

So, I was left with the choice of grabbing something I know will be decent and enjoying it on vacation, or trying something that is local and not available back home, but may not be very good. wanting to make sure I enjoyed every second of my vacation, I went with the Old Overholt BIB Rye.  In retrospect, I feel like I should have gone with a local distillery, but this bottle was gone within a few days in any event, so it couldn't have been all bad.

The nose carried that traditional cinnamon note from the rye. I also got a certain dark fruit note, and the closest I could pinpoint it was to a raisin flavor, though it wasn't quite. Perhaps raisin with plum. I also got a bit of dark chocolate on the nose, which was a welcome surprise. However, I also got a good amount of corn, a smell I've always associated with young bourbons, and that just didn't really do it for me.

On my first sip, my immediate thought was that this rye is a bit rough around the edges. By that I mean that the alcohol came through more than the proof should allow.  It also had sharp, bitter notes of hot corn flavors (again, that young whiskey note) as well as a pine note that was not of the enjoyable variety.

I did get some of the raisin that I got on the nose, and I also got some anise. The cinnamon that was prevalent on the nose was not as strong in the flavor profile. I also got lots of caramel, which was certainly needed in this whiskey, but at times it turned to more of a burnt sugar note. That coincided with a bit of a char note that I noticed from time to time.

The finish was very cereal-like. It wasn't sweet and didn't have any lingering enjoyable flavors. Rather, it was corny and woody and didn't exactly have me yearning for that next sip.

As noted above, after the fact I feel like I probably should have just tried something local, and I regret my decision. But, in the moment, with my vacation just starting out and wanting to get something decent to enjoy over the next few days, I went with this. While, at this price point, I can't say that it disappointed, it also didn't do much for me either

Grade: B-