Friday, November 22, 2019

Michter's Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey

- $60
- 86 Proof
- Batch NO. 19G1243
- Kentucky

I have really enjoyed the toasted barrel releases from Michter's.  I absolutely loved the toasted barrel rye, and the few times I've dried the toasted barrel finished bourbon, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.  So, when the opportunity came along to grab one of these, the toasted barrel sour mash whiskey, I didn't hesitate.

This is essentially a double barreled whiskey, much like many other brands are doing. With the rye, I felt it created another layer of flavor that softened the rye spice and added some earthy flavors that were really enjoyable. I assume by calling it "toasted," that that is in contrast to being charred. Perhaps that is intended to bring more woody notes and less sugars and vanillans into the whiskey. But really I have no idea what I'm talking about.

The nose on this one was a bit distinctive. I got a sharp, bitter but fresh note of orange peel. That bitterness was also accompanied by a sort of tannic note, kind of a woody bitterness. It also had a healthy amount of caramel, and overall it reminded me of an oaked old fashioned.

The flavor was much more fruity than the nose. This bourbon had a slight syrupy quality, which really carried the flavors from front to back and allowed them to linger for quite a while.  That texture, mixed with the fruity notes, reminded me a lot of maraschino cherries, again bringing me back to that old fashioned.

It really had that nice mixture of sweet, bitter and even a touch of savory. It had a constant undercurrent of brown sugar and a bit of yeast or bready flavor to it. It was a sort of cinnamon bread, but only lightly sweetened.

At times, though, sweeter notes would poke their head in, just long enough to say hello, and then they were gone. At times I got maple syrup, and at other times it was more of a burnt sugar note. It seemed to be changing from one pour to the next, but I think that is what I liked most about it.

Although it wasn't a vanilla or cinnamon "bomb," and while it wasn't my most favorite flavor profile, what I did love and appreciate about this whiskey was its complexity and the fact that with each sip I seemed to notice something different or seemed to get a different combination of flavors. Though it wasn't my favorite whiskey from a flavor standpoint, it certainly was one of the most interesting and one of the most fun whiskeys I've had in a while.

Grade: B

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Four Roses Single Barrel Warehouse Liquors Private Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon - OESV

- $75
- 121.2 Proof
- 9 years, 7 months
- Kentucky

A while back I attended a whiskey tasting at Warehouse Liquors in Chicago. It happened to be a tasting with Al Young, wherein we got to taste the 130 Anniversary Small Batch Limited Edition, the new Small Batch Select, and four new (at that time) Warehouse Liquors private selection single barrel picks. Needless to say, it was an incredible time, and among the private picks that we tasted that night, this was my favorite.

Before writing this blog, I looked back at my notes from that night to compare to my notes I took as I sipped my way through this bottle, months later.  At the time of the tasting, these were my notes:

It seemed to lean more towards traditional bourbon notes than the others did, with lots of caramel, a great, creamy, buttery texture, and a long, kettle corn finish. I absolutely loved this one and a bottle came home with me that night.

So, now that I got the chance to enjoy a full bottle before writing a review, here's what my notes reflect. The nose was all brown sugar and dark cherry, a great combination. It also had a bit of a chalkiness to the nose. I know that sounds more like a texture than an aroma, but it had that fourth grade classroom smell to it. There was also a definite cinnamon spice to it as well that tickled the nostrils a bit.

As to the flavor, brown sugar and cinnamon predominated. It also had a certain woody bitterness, combining into a sort of candied cinnamon stick flavor. Though the brown sugar was there, I did wish it were just a touch sweeter.

I also got a certain bitter bite, like an orange pith note. This, along with the cinnamon and wood, seemed to lead to a bit of an astringency quality. As I look back at my earlier notes, this was something I didn't notice then.

However, despite that astringency quality, there was still a lot to love about this bourbon. It also had notes of honey and graham cracker, giving it a sort of flaky apple pie crust type flavor. Any sweetness that came through, however, was always tempered. At times there was almost a sawdust note to it (perhaps that chalky note I got on the nose).

Ultimately, though, the wood and cinnamon were prominent throughout. As I made notes with each pour I tasted, I never got the creamy, buttery texture, nor did I get that long, kettle corn finish. In fact, I didn't love it nearly as much as I did that first time. Perhaps it was the atmosphere that contributed. In the end, this was still a really good, complex pour. With a little extra sweetness and a little less of that astringent quality, it would have been a great pour.

Grade: B

Sunday, November 10, 2019

High West Double Rye! Binny's Barrel Select Armagnac Finished Blended Rye

- $45
- 102.6 Proof
- Finished 1 yr., 8 mos.
- Barrel #112653
- Utah

I feel like it's been a while since I've seen bottles of High West Barrel Select, but when they do appear they seem to always do so in groups. Recently, Binny's got in a bunch of different barrel finishes, including bourbons and/or ryes finished in Syrah, brandy and Scotch barrels. What intrigued me most, however, was this particular bottle, finished in Armagnac barrels for over a year and a half.

I've recently had the pleasure of enjoying some well-aged Armagnacs, and I very much found them to my liking. I have no idea what barrels were used for aging this rye, but if that Armagnac tasted anything even close to what I tried, then the result of the aging should be pretty incredible.

The nose smelled like candied pear and baked apple. It had that crisp, fleshy fruit flavor, but also had that cooked brown sugar note as well. It smelled like a rich, decadent dessert.  This tells me that the Armagnac really influenced the whiskey, so I was already looking forward to tasting it. I also got some cinnamon and even a bit of pecan to balance the sweetness and to add just a touch of earthiness and even a light bitterness to round things out.  I could have sat there sniffing this whiskey forever.

The flavor really followed suit with the nose. I immediately got that strong pear note, along with the brown sugar. That sweet fruitiness was constant from the first pour to the last and definitely dominated. However, the rye spice wasn't overwhelmed. A spicy cinnamon note was also present from front to back and from first pour to last. The combination was a rich, dessert like cooked pear flavor that was so inviting.

In addition to those note, I also got a white wine note throughout. However, it wasn't like a sauvignon blanc, but was sweeter, like a Gewurztraminer or Riesling. It was definitely white-grapey, though.  That sweetness was a bit tampered by the tannins that came through as well, really driving home that wine note that I was getting.

Towards the end I found myself picking up other, unique notes. At times I got a dried apricot note that was a bit fleeting and I wished were more prominent, because it was delicious while it was there.  I also got a bit of a tangy note, kind of like an amaretto liqueur, out of the later pours. This just added to that baked, candied pear flavor that I was getting throughout.

I was so happy to find these again, and I was very excited to try something new, and this absolutely did it for me. Not only was it something different, but it absolutely delivered on flavor. I only wish I had more!

Grade: A

Friday, November 8, 2019

Buffalo Trace Bruno's Liquors Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $25
- 90 Proof
- Kentucky

Not too long ago while in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, on a recommendation I found in a bourbon Facebook group, I made my way to Bruno's Liquors. As I walked in the door, I was immediately met with a display of their private selections, a 1792 Full Proof, which I've previously reviewed here, and this Buffalo Trace. Although my wife was with me and I promised I'd grab just one bottle, I still managed to walk out with both.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- whenever I see one of these Buffalo Trace private picks, I'm grabbing it. For the price, it's almost always very good whiskey.  I have yet to be disappointed, and there is zero risk of any buyer's remorse. These are an easy sell to me.

The nose was rich and flavorful. I immediately got notes of cinnamon and dark cherry, a great combination that resulted in sweet and rich notes. I also got a strong brown sugar note, that reminded me of chocolate chip cookies, but without the chocolate chips. Just brown sugar and butter. The nose on this was great!

The flavor was all traditional bourbon notes. A nice caramel and brown sugar flavor dominated the profile. This bourbon was definitely on the sweeter side, and while I tend to like my whiskey to be a bit spicier, this was nonetheless done really well, and for those who like those sweeter bourbons, I could see them loving this.

It also had this sugar cookie note, which I only mention due to the fact that I got the chocolate chip-less chocolate chip cookie note on the nose. The baked goods note is strong throughout, just with slightly different flavors from the nose to the palate.

Other flavors came through as well, most notably a cooked peach and cinnamon note, that fell somewhere in between sweet and savory. It was almost like a side dish that could also have served as a dessert.

Of course, having opened this bottle just before Halloween, I consumed a glass or two while at the same time raiding my kids' trick-or-treating hauls. I noticed that, after enjoying a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup or four, the chocolate peanut butter notes in my mouth, when mixed with this bourbon, gave it a strong but sweet anise note. I typically don't like anise, but this was more of a candied anise note that I really enjoyed.  As expected, this was a solid pour with great flavor, and I will be stopping at Bruno's each and every time I'm in Lake Geneva.

Grade: B+

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Maker's Mark Finishing Series 2019 RC6 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $70
- 108.2 Proof
- Kentucky

I was very excited when I first read the announcement of this release. Aside from bottles with different color was to commemorate various sports teams or the horse racing commemorative bottles, all of which contain standard Maker's Mark, I've not seen or had available to me any other special or limited releases from Maker's Mark.

So, I made it a point to track down a bottle, and the best part of it was that it required very little effort. While a "limited release," it was and still is nonetheless very available, and at a price point that's similar to their private selects, which I appreciated. This release (and I assume there will be others) was finished using ten virgin toasted American oak staves, classified as stave profile RC6. So, it's like a barrel strength Maker's 46, but using different staves not available in the private select program.

On the nose, the first note that I got was a wood note, kind of like that sawdust smell of my garage when I've been cutting boards using a circular saw. It also had some cinnamon and pepper spice to it, as well as dark fruit notes. Those fruit notes reminded me of Cabernet, along with some cherry and black raspberry. I also got a lot of chocolate, and all of this blended together for a great, rich and sweet aroma.

The chocolate certainly carried forward into the taste, but it was distinctly a dark chocolate flavor, with only a light sweetness but a distinct bitterness to balance out the rich chocolate. That chocolate paired well with the fruit notes, but unlike the nose, the fruit notes here were brighter, kind of like fresh red raspberry. They had a certain crispness to them that differentiated these flavors from what I was getting on the nose.

The wood notes came through as well, but it was more oak than sawdust. This flavor seemed to also produce the kind of bitterness I associate with tannins in wine, but it wasn't overdone. Rather, it provided just the right amount of bitterness to work well with everything else.

Along with the raspberry, the bitter notes of wood and dark chocolate were complemented by a vanilla undercurrent that lingered from beginning to end. It also had a lot of caramel to provide the necessary sweetness to balance everything out, as well as a light, spicy cinnamon note that really came through at the end.

This bourbon had a great oily texture and, despite the bitter notes, was actually quite soft around the edges. It made things interesting but without losing that balance between flavors. I really enjoyed this and finished this bottle faster than I really intended to. Maker's Mark found something unique and delicious here, and I will certainly be picking up the next release in this series.

Grade: A-