Sunday, September 1, 2019

Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve Bourbon Batch No. 23

VITALS:
- $60
- 113.9 Proof
- NAS
- Batch No. 23
- Tennessee

I've been lucky enough to stumble on two of these bottles, and for some reason I started with this bottle rather than the earlier batch that I have. Belle Meade has been getting a lot of love lately for their single barrels and for their Reserve Cask Strength bourbons, and I've made it a point to grab them when I see them, which is not very often at all.

I haven't tried too much from Belle Meade. In fact, the only other bottle I've had from them was a 10-year Binny's private selection, which I do recall fondly. However, after finishing this bottle within a very short time after first opening it, I feel like I may need to make an effort to go through other bottles in their lineup.

The nose on this bourbon was rich and full and absolutely delicious. I immediately got notes of dark cherry and molasses, reminding me very much of Maraschino cherries. There was also a hint of maple and a slight cinnamon spice. To almost round everything out, it had a distinct vanilla bean smell to it that seemed to complement everything else going on.

As impressed as I was with the nose, the flavor held up as well and did not disappoint. Immediately I noticed the thick, oily texture it had, which coated my entire mouth with flavor. Also, despite the high proof, the alcohol was very well masked, making this dangerously easy to keep dipping back into pour after pour.

Up front I got the sweetness on my tongue, with kind of a salted caramel note. From there, however, what was clear is that this was a vanilla bomb. It was absolutely loaded with vanilla from front to back, and the other flavors that I picked up just seemed to play off that vanilla undercurrent.

The salty note seemed to evaporate almost immediately, but the caramel remained. It was more of a dark caramel note, however, with hints of burnt sugar. I even got some light char notes, though none of the woody bitterness, which was nice.

The Maraschino cherry note was there, but it was lighter on the actual cherry flavor than the nose had me anticipating. Rather, it was more of the flavor of the syrup than the cherries themselves.  I did not get the cinnamon that I got on the nose.  However, I did get a richer orange note. It wasn't a bright, citrusy note but rather like a candied orange note, even chocolate-orange at times.

But, again, it all started with the rich, delicious vanilla and each of the other flavors just acted as a complement to that note, and they each complemented that note very well.  This bourbon was rich, full of flavor, and it all worked really well! I couldn't help but keep going back to this bottle, even when I was trying to make an effort to try other things. It was delicious, and I have a feeling I'm going to be opening that other batch I have in my closet very soon!!

Grade: A-

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