Saturday, February 29, 2020

Larceny Binny's Private Selection No. 2 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $25
- 92 Proof
- Approx 6 1/2 years
- Barrel Serial No. 6515632
- Kentucky

I was pretty excited when I heard that Larceny was going to be put into Heaven Hill's barrel select program. The fact of the matter is, I get excited for any product that gets added to the various distilleries' private barrel programs.  So, of course when Binny's got their first two picks in, I snatched one up immediately . . . and how could I not at the price.

In fact, for what it's worth, I initially purchased Barrel No. 1. However, I was then offered samples of both, and I decided I liked No. 2 better on initial tastes, and I had to make the exchange. I think that's the first time I've ever returned a bottle of whiskey.

On the first pour, the aroma was full of sweet cinnamon and burnt sugar. There was also somewhat of a peanut brittle quality to it, with that cooked sugar and peanut smell.  It had a light peppery spice as well as a bit of black cherry, and underneath it all was a constant bread note. It was kind of a hodge podge of aromas, and the nose really gave no indication of what I was going to taste.

The one thing that certainly carried through to the palate, though, was the sweetness.  This came across as very sweet, with healthy doses of vanilla and caramel throughout.  Various other flavors made their way into the mix, and I felt like I was noticing something different with each pour. In early pours I got a black cherry note, but it was more of a cough syrup type black cherry flavor, rather than the fresh black cherry I got on the nose.

On later pours, I was getting nougat notes, along with the peanut brittle I got on the nose, and it really reminded me of a Snickers bar. In fact, the closer I got to the bottom of the bottle, the more prominent this flavor got, and all I was tasting was a less sweet Snickers bar.

The finish, however, was significantly longer than I would have expected given the proof. It had a graham crackery note, as well as cinnamon and pecan, and it reminded me a bit of pecan pie, particularly with the sweetness of it all.

Overall, there were some off notes (that cough syrup flavor) and it at times seemed a bit schizophrenic, but all in all I liked it better than standard Larceny. So, it was certainly worth it, and I doubt that I'd hesitate to grab another Larceny private pick the next time I see one, especially given the minimal hit to my wallet.

Grade: B

Friday, February 28, 2020

Knob Creek Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel #9046

- $40
- 120 Proof
- 14 yrs, 7 mos.
- Barrel #9046
- Kentucky

It's been a couple weeks since I've written a review, but in all fairness, that time included a ski trip in which I consumed multiple bottles of whiskey, but just lacked the wherewithal to actually take notes or write a review on any of them. I'll just say that it was a mixed bag of terrible to amazing over the last week.

However, when I got back from the trip, I made it a point to work on getting to the bottom of this bottle for two reasons. First, it was a really good bottle of bourbon, one that fit my mood no matter what. And second, I seem to have been stockpiling these older Knob Creek picks, and I felt I needed to begin reducing that pile so I can make room for any such future purchases.  I figure that's as good of an excuse as any to drink good bourbon...and, in fact, better than most!

The nose on this particular barrel was actually pretty mellow. It had sweet but soft caramel and vanilla notes. It also had a sort of a cola note as well.  What stuck out to me, though, and what I couldn't un-smell once I noticed it, was an Oreo cookie smell, with that semi-sweet chocolate cookie and vanilla frosting. It was good but weird in a bourbon.  On later pours, however, that cola smell seemed to get stronger and stronger, like I just poured a glass of Coke.

The flavor, for the most part, seemed to fit the nose. Right away I noticed root beer and vanilla, reminding me of sitting at A&W with the kids, stealthily stealing scoops of ice cream from their floats.  That's an admittedly very fluffy way of saying it was really good.

Despite the age, I never really got much wood on the palate. Yet, there was still this sort of harshness to the flavor. It's hard to describe, but it was kind of like those bitter edges you notice with burnt sugar. It's sweet but bitter at the same time, and that bitter takes on a certain harshness.  I did get a decent amount of amaretto as well, which when married with the vanilla notes I was getting, resulted in a very rich tasting bourbon.

The finish was probably the best part of this bourbon. It was long and creamy, almost buttery, and created this nice, silky coating. The flavor carried all of those vanilla, caramel and burnt sugar notes, which, along with that buttery texture, reminded me of a rich creme brulee.  I fount myself savoring that flavor on more than one occasion.

If it weren't for that burnt sugar harshness, I would have absolutely loved this bourbon. Even with it, though, there was so much else that was great that it didn't matter, and it was still an excellent pour that had me constantly going back to the well.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Heaven Hill Bottled-In-Bond 7 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $45
- 100 Proof
- 7 years
- Kentucky

I don't ever really hearken back to the days of yore when it comes to comparing whiskey prices or availability to years past. Quite frankly, I've really only been drinking bourbon for going on five years now, so I started paying attention to such things right around the time that the boom began.

That being said, on my first trip to Kentucky, of course I made it a point to hit up liquor stores for those bottles that I simply couldn't find in Illinois, and I grabbed a bottle of Heaven Hill 6 year Bottled-In-Bond - at a mere $12.50.  A couple years later when I went back, I muled back 6 bottles just to give away to friends, having found them at only $11.00 a bottle. One of those friends still to this day remembers that as one of his favorite whiskeys ever.

But, of course the point of all of this is that those days are gone, and now Heaven Hill has released an older version of the same bourbon, older by one year, and at a price of $45.00.  Principal makes me not want to spend the money, but at the same time, my rational brain tells me that for a good whiskey, $45.00 is still a very easy-to-swallow price given today's market, particularly if the whiskey is good. And so this past Friday I found myself bringing a bottle home.

The nose is certainly on the traditional side, as the first things I noticed were toffee and cinnamon. It had a certain richness to it, like raisin and other dark fruits, perhaps plum. There was also a bit of a pastry or sweet bread note, reminding me a lot of cinnamon raisin bread. I even got some cherry notes, along the lines of a cherry pie filling - sweet and sticky.

The flavor on this whiskey was great. In fact, it was far better than I remember the 6-year being. I immediately got notes that reminded me of creme brulee -- sweet milk with some caramel approaching a burnt sugar note. There was also a bunch of vanilla and even some dark chocolate to provide some balancing bitterness to everything.

Heavy throughout each sip, though, from front to back, was a constant brown sugar note. If it weren't for all those other dessert-like notes I was getting, I'd say it was a brown sugar bomb. That would imply that that's all that I got, and that's not the case. But, it was certainly the strongest note.

Overall, this was a very rich and very delicious whiskey, offering rich dark fruit notes, sweet caramel notes, balancing bitter notes of dark chocolate and even tannins from the wood, and vanilla and brown sugar throughout. While I expected a very good whiskey, I really didn't expect this much flavor, and I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised.  Days of yore be damned -- the market is what it is now, and this bourbon was worth every penny (and it was gone within a weekend, if that's any indicator of just how good it is).

Grade: A

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Boone County Distilling Eighteen 33 12 Year Straight Bourbon

- $65
- 90.8 Proof
- 12 Years
- Indiana

This is another bottle that was muled back to me when my buddy made his trip to Liquor City Uncorked in Covington, Kentucky this past Summer. Sadly, this bottle was the last of the goodies that he brought me. For a long time it was one of my desk whiskeys at work, but as I got toward the end, I brought it home to give it a proper send-off.

I don't know much about Boone County Distilling Co., but I do know that what he brought back for me was a 12-year bottling of MGP bourbon, and I have yet to see this for sale anywhere here in Illinois.  While it comes with a nice backstory dedicated to the hard working individuals working for the distillery in Petersburg, Kentucky, including William Snyder. The label says it was "Made by Ghosts." My guess is it was actually made by Greg Metz, but that's neither here nor there, so long as the whiskey is good.

I got a lot of fruit-forward notes on the nose, certainly some ripe cherry off the tree (as opposed to that fake cherry note I sometimes get and tend to hate), as well as a red grape note. Along with these fruit notes, I also got a rich vanilla, along with sweet bready notes and even a little bit of cinnamon. All of this combined to remind me of the smell of a rich, cherry danish.

I didn't find the flavor to be anywhere near as sweet as the nose, however. Although it still had some of those fruit-forward notes, notably the fresh cherry and even a bit of plum and raisin, it lacked in the sweetness that reminded me of a Danish.

I did get some graham cracker notes, which carried a hint of honey with them. I also got the bread notes that I got from the nose, but the flavors were more on the yeast side, and definitely not that pastry-type of bread flavor.  The cinnamon came through as well, and altogether it tasted a bit like that raisin bread you can by pre-sliced and by the loaf at the grocery store.

The age did shine through a bit in the flavor, as there were some wood notes that came through, carrying with them the slightest bit of tannic bitterness. I also noticed from time to time a distinct amaretto note that, quite frankly, I wished were more prominent, because it seemed to really work with everything else that was going on.

Interestingly, though not thick in texture, and certainly not high in proof at just above 90, this bourbon nonetheless carried a lot of complexity and rich flavors. It even had a decently long finish that retained the cinnamon and raisin flavors for quite a while, certainly far longer than I would have expected. All in all, I was impressed by how flavorful this whiskey was, and the flavors all seemed to work well together to make a very delicious bourbon, albeit tempered a bit in sweetness and spice.

Grade: B+

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Stagg Jr. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Batch 7 - 130.0 Proof

- $60
- 130.0 Proof
- Batch 7 - Fall 2016
- Kentucky

A few months back while walking through one of my usual craft beer (as opposed to whiskey) stops, I made my obligatory stop over to their display cabinet of whiskey. Usually there's nothing in there catching my eye, and from time to time what I do find is over-priced. However, in this instance, they had two bottles of Stagg Jr. at two different proofs. My curiosity having gotten the best of me, I pulled out my phone and looked up the various batches and proofs.

When I quickly learned that one of the bottles was the Fall 2016 release, I immediately got a price-check. I was pleasantly surprised at the answer I got of $60.00, and of course I asked the gentleman behind the counter to grab his key. I have no idea why they had a bottle that was released three years prior. Honestly I have no idea how long that may have been sitting in that cabinet. But, even regardless of how anyone may rate one batch versus another, to find one that was so far out of production seemed to me like a nice booty from a treasure hunt I didn't even know I was on!

The nose was full of spice, notably cinnamon and black pepper. There was also a decent amount of oak on the nose as well. It really came across as a bold, spicy and even old bourbon on the nose. Surprisingly I got very little alcohol on the nose, despite the high proof. What did come through, even if subtly, was a really delicious peanut brittle note that just made me want to dive into my glass.

As for flavor, much like the nose, the alcohol did not come across nearly as much as I expected, which was great because it allowed all the other flavors to really come through. I immediately noticed the light black pepper spice I was getting on the nose, but I was also getting a distinct graham crackery flavor to it.

On early pours I also got a long finish that was full of orange peel and caramel, which at times leaned more towards a burnt sugar flavor.  What came across from beginning to end, though, was that this was absolutely loaded with caramel -- a "caramel bomb" as the cool kids would say.

Other notes made their way to my tongue as I enjoyed this bottle, including a light milk chocolate note that seemed to work so well with everything else going on. I know I already mentioned graham crackers, but on later pours I was getting a distinct pie crust as well, and even at times the salted peanut note I got on the nose came through.

Overall, though, I absolutely loved this bottle and nearly shed a tear as I watched the last drop hang for a moment on the lip of the bottle before finally dropping into my glass.  It was a great mix of sweet and heat, and the delicious, caramel and pie crust notes shined despite ringing in at 130 proof.  In fact, I can still taste that delicious, rich caramel as I sit here typing this and sadly staring at my empty bottle.

Grade: A

Friday, February 7, 2020

Jack Daniel's Heritage Barrel Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey - 2019

- $65
- 100 Proof
- Barrel No. 19-06173
- Tennessee

Though I used to consider myself not a fan of Jack Daniel's, more and more I'm finding that I really like what they're putting out.  Perhaps not Old No. 7, but I have yet to find a single barrel that I didn't enjoy. That being said, it's still been quite some time since I've grabbed a Jack Daniel's product off the shelf.

But then last year, their release of their Heritage Barrel single barrel whiskey got all sorts of buzz on social media, blogs and in other reviews. For the most part, I was seeing nothing but love for this product. However, by that time it was gone from the shelves. So, when this year's release hit, and I found one looking back at me from the shelf, FOMO got the best of me and I had to have it.

For what it's worth, when I write these reviews, it's after I've finished the bottle. And, while that remains the case here, in actuality, the bottle fell off the top of my fridge shortly after opening it, breaking the cork. So, I ended up having to decant the remainder, which was most of the bottle. That being said, this bottle was (spoiler alert) absolutely delicious, and it didn't remain in that decanter for very long.

The nose was interestingly feint. I really had to shove my nose into my Glencairn in order to get the aromas that were there, but when I did, I got a somewhat odd combination of toffee and black pepper. It was kind of like a spiced Heath bar. I also got notes of cinnamon sugar graham crackers. I realize that it's very specific, but there used to be a cinnamon sugar flavor of Teddy Grahams (I think it came in a red box), and that's what I was reminded of here. Apparently this nose evinced lots of callbacks to food memories for me.

As to flavor, the first thing I noticed was a heavy corn flavor. But, it wasn't hot in any way, nor did it come across as a corn flavor the likes you might get in a young whiskey. Rather, it was kind of like a sweet creamed corn, soft on the palate and with no harshness whatsoever.  That flavor seemed to match the texture perfectly, too, as it had a nice viscosity that almost came across as pillowy.

In addition to that sweet creamed corn note, there was a peach note that blended with what was kind of a yogurt note. I'm not sure how best to describe it, but those two flavors provided a certain tanginess and added some nice, fruity and even earthy complexity balanced out by sweet vanilla flavor throughout.  Notably, I did not get that traditional Jack Daniel's banana note, despite watching out for it.

What I loved most about this whiskey, though, was the finish. After each swallow, I was left with this great marshmallow and nougat flavor that was absolutely amazing. There was even a bit of a milk chocolate note to the finish as well, and all I could think of was 3 Musketeers bars. Yes, that's the third reference to candy and/or snacks in this review, but that's what I was getting and I thought it was incredible. That's what kept me going back pour after pour, and it's that finish that made sure this whiskey didn't stay in that decanter very long. I'm glad my FOMO got the best of me!

Grade: A-