Saturday, December 28, 2019

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye 2018

- $80
- 119.6 Proof
- Batch 1 - 2018
- Kentucky

I've always been such a big fan of the Knob Creek private selections, both the bourbons and the ryes. It's a great way to get a nearly barrel strength bourbon or rye, at a good age, and at a relatively low price. More importantly, they always deliver in quality.

As a bit of a rye-head, the idea of a cask strength rye release, even if only a bit higher proof than their 120 proof, had their desired effect of causing me to crack open my wallet. However, for the longest time I couldn't find this bottle anywhere. I kept seeing it all over social media and elsewhere on the internet, and the reviews were all positive, making me want it even more. But it just wasn't there . . . until I wasn't really looking for it. Months later I happened to spy a bottle sitting in the corner on a shelf of a store's higher end whiskey cabinet, and I snatched it up, even despite the somewhat hefty price tag.

The nose was interesting. I got a lot of both orange and pine. Even writing it down now I'm thinking of Pine Sol. But, to be clear, that is not at all what I was getting on the nose here. Rather, it was fresh, real orange (not that fake cleaner smell), and the pine had a more earthy note, and served to complement the fresh citrus note. Accompanying the pine note was a bit of a woody smell, and this was all sweetened up a bit by a nice brown sugar note.

The first thing I noticed when I took a sip was the great oily or buttery texture this rye had. It was one of the more viscous whiskeys I've had in a while, completely coating every inch of my mouth and tongue in flavor.

That flavor included a light note of that same pine that I got on the nose. That was accompanied by a sweet undercurrent, like a caramel and brown sugar note throughout each sip. The cinnamon seemed to then be layered on top of all of this, like a beautiful, sweet and spicy rye cake.

To complete this birthday party, I also got a bunch of vanilla from front to back. Towards the end of the bottle, a spearmint note came through, and mixed with the healthy vanilla flavors, had me thinking of mint ice cream (without the chocolate chips) but with a kick. It was at this point that I decided, "Holy crap this is good!"

Ont the finish I got a nice, spicy tickle in the back of my throat. It was almost like a sweet but spicy cinnamon, with a light touch of cayenne to give it that nice, spicy burn. It was just enough to make me want to go right back for that next sip.

Grade: A

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Pinhook Rye Humor Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey

- $50
- 114 Proof
- 3 years
- Kentucky

I've been hearing mostly good things about Pinhook and the products they've been making, with only a smattering of negative reviews. It seems their rye has fared even better, with mostly universal acceptance as a "solid pour" among the online bourbon community.

I've had the intent of grabbing a bottle of their regular rye with the bright green wax for quite some time, just to give it a go. But it has always seemed that there's something else I'm more interested in each time I go to the store. However, when I heard of their release of a barrel strength rye, I knew I'd be grabbing it as soon as it appeared on the shelves . . . and so I did.

When I first popped the cork on this bottle, I had a hard time getting past the heavy fuel on the nose. It seemed to just pour out from the top of the bottle and fill the room. Luckily, this dissipated pretty quickly, though, allowing a nice aroma of rich and varying flavors to come through.

Once I was able to get past the alcohol, I got a lot of notes that reminded me of a rich brandy or even a good barleywine. I got some typical pine notes from the rye, but that was mixed with a dark cherry note. It also had a sort of butterscotch sweetness to take it in a different direction. I also got notes of toffee and raisin, giving this a rich and bold nose that I couldn't stop enjoying.

When I took my first sip, I couldn't help but notice the texture. It was this great, smooth and buttery texture, slightly oily, but exactly what I hope for in a whiskey, as that's a sign of a whiskey that's going to coat my mouth in flavor and provide for a nice, long finish. All good things so long as the whiskey tastes good.

The flavors were, for the most part, what I expect from and enjoy about a good rye. Up front I was immediately hit with cinnamon and just a light pine note, enough to notice that it's there, but not enough for it to be a primary flavor.

It had a lot of vanilla, both up front and on the back end. It was on the sweeter side, and it almost reminded me of cake frosting. This worked really well with the hazelnut flavor that came through as well, with all these flavors blending into a nice dessert-like note, but one that is unlike any dessert I've ever had (though I think I'd like to).

However, with all that going on, throughout the bottle I got a note that was distracting and even off-putting at times. The pine note took on a sort of cleaning solution note, like a bit of pine sol. I'd be enjoying a sip, focusing on all the great flavors noted above, and then out of nowhere I'd be hit with Pine Sol, and it was just . . . distracting. I can't think of any other word for it. It was hard to enjoy the great flavors going on with that one note stabbing at me.

Grade: B-

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Nikka Whisky From the Barrel

- $60
- 102.8 Proof
- Japan

I don't get around to Japanese whiskys all that often, and the number that I've reviewed here is practically zero. I do love Japanese whisky, though, and that is something that needs correcting. It seems that I've really enjoyed nearly every one that I've tried, and the Nikka 21 year was basically an orgasmic whisky experience.

This particular bottle caught my eye for two reasons--the short, squat bottle and the name. Now, I don't believe that it is unfiltered or undiluted, as the name might imply. I don't really know what the name is intended to suggest. It's perhaps a bit misleading, but it got me to buy it, and luckily the whisky inside was very good to cause me to not really care.

The nose gives off a light smokey note. It's certainly not peated, but a light amount of smoke is certainly there. I also got a good amount of tobacco leaf, as well as a certain, slightly sweet peach tea note.This was all seemingly surrounded by certain floral notes, and while I'm no expert on flowers, it oddly reminded me of high school dances. So, if I were to try to pin it down, I'd say it smelled like carnations and desperation.

The flavor was very similar to good Speyside single malts. Up front I got a nice balance of sweet butterscotch notes with a light peppery spice. That light smoke from the nose was also present up front, but again, did not come across as peated in any respect.

I also got a mix of light fruit and sweet vanilla notes. The fruit was bright and sweet like apricot, and the vanilla reminded me of vanilla icing. These notes, mixed with the bready or pastry-like flavors of gave this a sort of apricot danish flavor that made me wish I had tried this for breakfast.

The back end had a light, spicy finish. The black pepper notes were present throughout. But, towards the end, a nice cinnamon note came through as well that seemed to complement everything else going on in this whisky, from the butterscotch to the apricot to the pepper spice. It was a spicy finish that seemed to tie a bow on everything else.

I kind of picked this up knowing nothing about it, but the whisky certainly lived up to all the positive reviews I've seen since. I really took my time with this whisky, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single sip.

Grade: A

Friday, December 13, 2019

W.B. Saffell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $50 (375 ml)
- 107 Proof
- Batch No. 1
- Kentucky

One thing I love about these little bottles is the way they feel in your hand. It makes you want to just shotgun the whole thing (as bad of an idea as that may be). They just feel good in your hand. The downside, of course, is how little liquid they hold. It’s like they hold half the amount of whiskey as a regular bottle! I really have a hard time getting on board with that. Bigger is always better.

That being said, I have heard really good things about this latest release in the Whiskey Barons collection coming out of Wild Turkey. It’s my understanding the Russells didn’t have a hand in the first two releases, but that they did have a hand in this one. Perhaps that’s what did the trick, I don’t know. But, I certainly wanted to find out for myself just how good this one is.

The nose on this one was really pungent, with strong notes of anise along with a peppery spice that provided a nice bite. I also got some dark cherry. A certain amount of tannic wood notes came through as well, which at times came across as more of a walnut note. It kind of smelled like what I’d expect Nick Offerman to smell like if he were a bourbon guy.

Interestingly, I found the flavor to be quite different from the nose. Instead of dark cherry and wood tones, I got something bright on the flavor, like fresh peach. It was sweet and even a bit tangy. It was balanced out by a kind of earthy, tea-like flavor as well.

It was on the sweeter side, but that sweetness was balanced out by a nice cinnamon spice (this is, after all, a Wild Turkey product), as well as the tangy flavor from that peach note. The pepper spices that were intermingled helped balance out that sweetness as well.

What did come through from the nose was that walnut note. This flavor was present throughout, from first pour to last and from front to back. It wasn’t strong, but it was always there. On later pours I noticed some orange peel or burnt orange notes. Those notes, along with everything else this had going on, seemed to blend into a sort of walnut Old Fashioned flavor, like a more earthy, less sweet version of the cocktail. I found I really liked it.

This is a product I certainly wouldn’t mind grabbing some more of. While it didn’t blow me away, it certainly would be the kind of whiskey that I would, from time to time, be in the mood for. It was very good, and I could see myself at some point down the road yearning specifically for another pour of this.

Grade: B+

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Knob Creek Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 14 1/2 years

- $40
- 120 Proof
- 14 1/2 Years
- Kentucky

I feel like every time I write a review on a Knob Creek store pick, I start it off by stating just what a great value these store picks are. And here I am doing it again. The fact that recently there seems to have been a flood of 13+ year old Knob Creeks hitting the market, at nearly full proof, and for only $40, has had me grabbing these left and right lately.  As I've said before, every Knob Creek pick I've had has been, at bottom, very good, and some of them have been absolutely great! That makes grabbing a 14 1/2 year old, almost full proof bourbon at $40 a no-brainer!

The nose on this was rich and bold, with anise and cherry mixing together, almost like an aperitif you'd get at a nice Italian restaurant. It also had a nice, spicy cinnamon note. The nose did have a bit of burn (to be expected given the proof), as well as a distinct wood note that carried a bit of bitterness with it.  That seemed to fade over time, however, and on later pours I noticed a bit of an apple pie note, with baked apples and baking spices coming through.

Upon taking my first sip, one of the first things I noticed was how easy it was to drink. Despite the high proof and the amount of alcohol I got on the nose, there was almost no alcohol in the flavor. It also had a nice, oily texture which might have helped with that and certainly carried the flavors to a nice, long and lingering finish.

It was very vanilla forward, like an unsweetened natural vanilla flavor. That mixed well with a healthy amount of dark chocolate, making this a very rich and decadent whiskey. I even got some peanut notes which only added to the richness.

On later pours, the vanilla seemed to dominate even more, but it also seemed to sweeten up a bit. I even got a light note of spearmint, kind of like what I get in some ryes. It worked really well with the heavy vanilla flavor.

This is one bottle that seemed to change a lot over time, because in later pours I got a distinct note of root beer. It's as though that heavy vanilla finally married with the other spices, the cinnamon and anise, to the final flavor that had me thinking of root beer. It was followed by a light note of black pepper spice, seemingly rounding it out.

While I nabbed this bottle because of its age (as well as the fact that I have a hard time passing up Knob Creek picks), ultimately, regardless of the age, this was a delicious bourbon. Once opened, I found myself repeatedly going back to the well on this one, and it was over with before I knew it.

Grade: A

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Blanton's Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel No. 067

- $60
- 93 Proof
- Barrel No. 067
- Kentucky

I bought this bottle just about a year ago, at a time when hype over Blanton's store picks was incredibly high (perhaps it still is, but since the demise of the Facebook secondary market, I really don't have my fingers on the pulse of such things).  I held onto it for quite a while until I put together a lineup of six different iterations of Blanton's.

Compared to its cousins, which included two Straight From the Barrels, a gold, a red, a black and another store pick, this one was easily one of the favorites. The only one that got as many top votes was the Blanton's Gold. It was unanimous, however, that Binny's had picked a great barrel with this one.

The nose on this had the traditional Batch #2 notes, with heavy doses of toffee and caramel leading the way. It also had a nice cinnamon flavor, and even a bit of black pepper. On top of that, though, what stood out with this one was a very familiar smell of cherry pie. I got notes not only of cherry, but also the warm, bready crust and a light, sugary sweetness.

As to the flavor, I feel like I could almost just say, "See notes above." The flavor really matched the nose, with caramel and brown sugar leading the way. It was rich and sweet up front, followed by a nice, light cinnamon finish.

It also had a nice vanilla undercurrent that at times had me thinking of candy corn, but not quite as sugary. That sweet vanilla was balanced out by the light peppery note on the back end.

But best of all, that cherry pie note from the nose was also present in the flavor, and it was delicious! Those baked cherry notes and pie crust flavors worked incredibly well with everything else that was going on in this whiskey, and it really made this an enjoyable dessert whiskey without getting too sweet.

While I really enjoyed the Blanton's tasting and will likely never do something quite like that again, I feel like I should have opened this one much sooner. This was a fantastic bourbon, and it was different from most other Blanton's I've had but in a delicious way! While I wished I had opened it sooner, I'm now sorry that it's gone.

Grade: A+

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

High West Yippee Ki-Yay Blended Rye Finished in Vermouth and Syrah Barrels - Batch No. 19C27

- $75
- 92 Proof
- Blend of 2 to 16 year whiskeys
- Batch No. 19C27
- Utah/Kentucky/Indiana

Who loves free whiskey?!? I know I’ve asked this question at the start of reviews in the past, but it really is one my most favoritest things in life! For my 40th birthday, a good friend of mine bought me this bottle of Yipee Ki-Yay. He’s in California, so he purchased it online through Binny’s, and I just got a text message to go pick up my bottle. Kind of nice walking into a liquor store, having them hand you a bottle of whiskey, and then just walking out!

For reference purposes, per High West's website, this is a blend of straight rye whiskeys aged from 2 to 16 years, as follows (though the ratios are a secret): 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP; 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley from Barton; and 80% Rye, 20% malted rye from High West Distillery.

I’ve reviewed this whiskey before, here, but that was over 3 ½ years ago, and it was Batch No. 1. I didn’t go back and look at that post until I finished this bottle (didn’t want to be influenced by it), but I did have a recollection of not being too fond of it when I tried it back then. I remembered the vermouth influence being not to my liking and that the whiskey was very sweet. I was curious as to how my impressions may have changed, or how the whiskey may have changed, over time.

On the nose I got a sort of blend of pepper, cinnamon and cherry. I’m sure the cherry came from the Syrah barrels. The nose was very strong—I could smell it from a couple feet away. I also got something with a bit of bite to it, like a strong anise note, stronger than I would have preferred.

The first thing I noticed when I poured my glass was the distinct red hue. For what it was worth, it looked really good. On the first sip, the first thing I noticed was a bright, but lightly bitter raspberry flavor. It was reminiscent of the sherry notes I’d pick up from sherried Scotches. Along with that bright raspberry note, however, was a sort of metallic note. I couldn’t quite place what it was, but it was kind of like that tin can flavor that tends to seep into canned foods. This was a bit off-putting.

The back end had that pepper spice I got from the nose, which was really enjoyable with the bright fruit notes. I also got a sort of cloves flavor that at times seemed to go between notes of cinnamon and notes of anise or black licorice.

It was not as sweet as I had remembered it being. That was the one thing that I recalled from the last time I had this whiskey, and it just wasn’t much of an issue this time around. Rather, I got a more dry quality from this. Part way through the bottle I was picking up notes of unsweetened peach tea. It had that sort of herbal or earthy flavor of the tea, along with the unsweetened fruit notes, almost like it was the “essence” of peach as some flavored waters might describe it.

I certainly think I like this better than I did the last time, though my grade, looking back now, is only slightly higher than the grade I gave to Batch No. 1. Perhaps I liked it more the first time than I realized, or perhaps I just don’t like this as much as I initially thought this time around. Either way, it’s a decent whiskey, but I’ll continue to lean toward other High West offerings.

Grade: B