Saturday, August 29, 2020

Remus Repeal Reserve Batch III Straight Bourbon

- $75
- 100 Proof
- Blend of 12 yrs. and 11 yrs.
- Indiana

You know what I love?  Discount whiskey! Now don't get me wrong, this wasn't a huge discount. It was only a mere $5 off the regular price. But, I've been reading a lot of good reviews of the Repeal Reserve bottlings lately, and I have been wanting to give it a try. After all, it's a blend of well-aged MGP whiskey, in a limited release, and at a price that's actually under most of the other big distillers' limited releases.

So, the $5 discount was simply all I needed to tip the scales here. To get a little more specific on the blend (which is put right on the front label, which I love), this is a "medley" that is 12% 12-year bourbon with a 21% rye mashbill; 78% 11-year bourbon with a 21% rye mashbill; and 10% 11-year bourbon with a 36% rye mashbill.  It sounds like a magical mix of rye mashbills to me, and this was one of those bottles that I pretty much cracked open as soon as I got home. 

Before I even started taking notes on the smell or taste, I felt compelled to take note of the color (something I don't typically do). While bourbons tend to be darker anyway, certainly in comparison to single malts, this one was particularly dark in color, almost chocolate-like, and was certainly darker than any bourbons I've had recently.

The smell immediately from the pop of the cork was rich, with dark fruits like plum and raisin. It was also full of brown sugar, and it even had that tang or spice from just a bit of anise. There were light oak tones, but overall it had a rich sweetness to it. Towards the end I started noticing an underlying cereal note, like Cheerios.

The first note that I got when I took my first sip was a sweet but rich nutty note, kind of like a mix between cashew and pecan. It also had notes of dark chocolate to it, adding a little sweetness and a little bitterness. However, that bitterness was certainly welcome to help offset the sweet notes of caramel and vanilla that quickly made their way to the forefront.

I got a bit of maple syrup as well, which mixed with the nutty notes to create a sort of candied pecan flavor that I thought was incredible. There were also light cinnamon notes, and even a bit of a buttery vanilla note as well.

This bourbon was rich and complex, and it really hit all the right notes for me. It was dessert-like in flavor without being dessert-like in sweetness. It had the earmarks of a well-aged whiskey, with just a touch of char and just enough oak to balance out all the sweeter flavors. And it hit on a lot of the more traditional caramel and vanilla notes. 

A good indicator of just how much I like a bourbon is how much of the bottle I end up drinking when I first crack it open, and between my father-in-law and myself, this bottle was half emptied just in the first night. I loved this whiskey, and I'm kicking myself for not having tried it sooner. I don't believe I'll be waiting for a sale before I try Batch IV.

Grade: A

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 25 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon


- $130
- 91 Proof
- 25 Years
- Kentucky

A while back my wife had the nerve to make a wine run and, while there, pick up two really nice bottles of whiskey for me. I can't remember what the occasion was, whether it was that I had a really good day at work or perhaps I had had a really bad day at work. I just can't recall. Quite frankly, I can't recall as I sit here typing this what the other bottle was. But I do recall her bringing this one home for me.

It's not that hard to recall. After all, having had mixed experiences with Orphan Barrel products, the odds of me dropping $140 on another bottle were pretty slim, even if it were for a 25 year old bourbon. Based on my prior experiences with Old Blowhard, Barterhouse and Lost Prophet, all Orphan Barrel Bourbons at least 20 years of age or older, I figured this would be just as woody flavored as those bottles were. But, I was nonetheless thrilled to get one as a gift (even if it was still my money that bought the bottle)!  It's the gesture that counts, and she did a great job of picking up something I hadn't already had.

Despite my concerns, the nose was not nearly as expected. It packed a decent cinnamon punch, and yes, it was more like cinnamon sticks, but it didn't come across as woody, just Christmas-y.  I also got an earthy type of nougat flavor, like not so sugary sweet but almost leathery. There were also some caramelized or burnt sugar notes, and, despite all this, there seemed to be a sweet honey note in the background to brighten it up a bit.

On the tongue it was thinner than I expected. I get that this is a lower proof bourbon, but the older stuff frequently carries a bit more texture than this one did.  Nonetheless, it did still pack a lot of flavor, which I'm sure was due to the amount of time spent in the barrel.

The prominent flavor is what I would describe as dark cherry and walnut (like drinking well-made furniture).  It didn't come across as over-oaked, at least not with respect to the tannic qualities I often get from more wood-forward bourbons. The wood was there, though, and it certainly made for a dryer bourbon, removing much of the sweetness from the cherry. 

I also had a layer of cinnamon throughout, which at times seemed to be accompanied by chocolate and cherry notes. The chocolate was the most welcome flavor here, but it primarily lingered in the background. Rather, it was that walnut note that seemed to dominate each pour, with that kind of woody-nutty flavor and a touch of bitterness to go with.

What I really didn't like about this bourbon, though, is that I got this odd, tongue-numbing sensation.  But not like the kind that I would have gotten when I was 21 years old and not used to brown spirits. Rather, and this is going to be completely unrelatable to just about anyone that reads this, it was like the sensation of when you eat barbecue that has too much liquid smoke in it. Obviously this is coming from my own personal experience, but it's a sensation I've only had a couple times, and that's what it brought me back to.  It was really weird and quite off-putting.

Looking past that weird liquid smoke experience, this is a woody, well-aged bourbon that gives you many of the flavors you'd expect from such. Sometimes I find myself in the mood for that flavor profile, and this certainly fit the bill. But the weird liquid smoke experience was, ultimately, pretty hard to get past. 

Grade: B-

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Devils River Rye Whiskey

- $27
- 90 Proof
- Texas

So, in a previous post I told the story of how my father-in-law had tried this rye whiskey and he wanted me to try some, so rather than bring his bottle over to share, he stopped by his store and bought both the Devils River Bourbon and the Rye Whiskey.  As I was lying on my recliner, he walked in the door and unceremoniously dropped both bottles right into my lap. Once I got over the pain, I looked inside the bag to find both bottles, and I thanked him profusely, because, after all, who doesn't like free bourbon?!?

That being said, I was a bit gun shy going into this bottle. I started with the bourbon, and it really did not do a whole lot for me at all. In fact, I quite hated it. But, ryes tend to hold up better at a younger age, and I've always found that trying a rye from a small, craft distiller tends to be a less riskier proposition than trying a young bourbon. And so, with that in mind, I tried my best to keep the bad experience from the bourbon out of mind and tried to enjoy this rye with no prejudice.

From the pop of the cork I noticed that this whiskey actually had a really nice aroma.  Yes, I was still gun shy despite my best efforts, and I was expecting that over-ripe apple that I get from young whiskeys. However, what I got was a healthy amount of cinnamon, like red hots candy, mixed with vanilla.  I also got some black pepper spice that tickled my nostrils (that seems weird just typing it, but you get what I mean). There was some sweet corn notes, showing its youth, but also a light orange peel scent. All in all, it worked pretty well together and I found my self nosing my glass quite a bit.

The flavor lacked some of the sharp or rough edges that I was expecting to get. Granted, that could be due in part to the lower proof, but it came across as soft and inoffensive. It certainly had some typical notes of a young whiskey. I got a slight note of overripe apple that I associate with young whiskeys, but it wasn't a very strong note, and it really didn't detract from the other flavors that were going on.

I got a lot of warm cinnamon and brown sugar notes, like some sort of cookie -- perhaps a chocolate chip cookie, but with cinnamon chips instead of chocolate chips (I may have to try this!).  It also had a light cocoa powder note to it as well, making this somewhat dessert-like, but like a less sweet dessert.

I did get the orange peel, and it actually came across stronger on the palate than on the nose. Along with that I got some nutty notes, like nutmeg and even at times that bitter walnut shell flavor. Perhaps it was kind of a peanut skins note.

Overall, this was actually a pretty decent whiskey, and a far cry better than its bourbon brother. With so many craft whiskeys, they come with a hefty price tag to cover the cost of producing and bottling whiskey, and to turn a profit. I'm not sure how Devils River gets away with it, but the price tag on this bottle is great! At only $27 a bottle, this is well-worth taking a flyer on. It's not the best rye I've ever had, and I don't think anybody would expect that it would be. But, for that price, it's a really good product.

Grade: B

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Daviess County Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in French Oak Casks


- $45
- 96 Proof
- Kentucky

With the recent Binny's barrel picks from Rebel and Ezra Brooks, I feel like I've been picking up a lot of Lux Row products lately. This was the first in that trend. I had seen these on the shelves for a while, but I frequently looked right past them. Then a friend recommended this French Oak Cask finished bourbon from Daviess County, giving it incredibly high praise. 

At that point I was left with no choice, really, but to make sure to pick one up the next time I was at the store. A glowing review paired with a moderate price made it an easy decision. He was not the only one, though. I bottled a sample for another friend, along with a bunch of other samples, and he made it a point to text me to tell me how much he liked this sample specifically.  And so, the stage is set. 

The nose had a light wood note to it. I don't know if that was just a placebo effect of knowing that this is a secondary wood-finished bourbon or not. But it was there, albeit light and inoffensive. I also got notes of cherry and vanilla, as well as a sweet popcorn note, kind of like kettle corn. It wasn't bold or pungent, but the aromas did mix very well together.

The texture was surprisingly viscous and buttery, given the proof. However, I didn't get that popcorn flavor I got off the nose. Rather, I found that this was very vanilla forward, and if that's your jam, then this is definitely worth trying.

On top of the vanilla I got a certain honey note along with a sweet wood note. In fact, at times it came across almost like a granola bar, with that sweet honey mixed with a nutty, cereal like note. In that sense the wood notes were on the sweeter side, as far as wood notes go.  I guess that's a way of saying it lacked that bitter bite or tannic quality that I sometimes get from a more oaky bourbon.

The sweetness carried throughout, and it was most noticeable on the finish. Due to the oily quality of the whiskey, the finish was nice and long, and it left my mouth with a nice, thick coating of sweet caramel, and more towards the end, a maple syrup note. This is where I would have liked it to be a bit more balanced, though. The syrupy sweetness, whether honey, maple syrup or just sweet vanilla, needed something earthy or even a touch of that wood note as a counter.

That being said, while this may not have been my favorite whiskey, others certainly have loved this. If you like your bourbon on the sweeter side, definitely give this a go!

Grade: B

Friday, August 21, 2020

Jim Beam Old Tub Bottled In Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $23
- 100 Proof
- NAS (Min. 4 years)
- Kentucky

I've known about the Jim Beam brand Old Tub for some time now, but only as a result of doing some research a few years back when I was planning my first trip to Kentucky. I was researching whiskeys that I could either only get in Kentucky or that were available in Kentucky but not in Illinois.  Old Tub was one that made that list, as it was only available at the stillhouse. Unfortunately, there was none to be found on the shelves when I got there.

So when Beam announced the release of Old Tub on wide distribution, I was actually pretty excited, even if it didn't come with any huge amount of love or hype over the distillery-only release. Then I heard the price and I knew I'd be getting one. It was nuts to me that there was a limited release bourbon coming out that was only going to be $23!  I guess, however, that it is consistent with other very affordable "limited" releases from Beam such as Distiller's Cut and Repeal Batch (both of which I was also a fan). And the best part of it was that when it did finally hit the shelves, it actually hit the shelves, meaning there was no asking for it from the back or finding it at jacked up prices. It was just literally sitting on the shelf waiting for me!

Upon opening the bottle and taking that first whiff, I immediately noticed a soft, nutty nose, kind of like cashew. I also got a soft grainy note, like oatmeal, but with honey added, or even a not-so-strong maple syrup.  There was a light cinnamon spice to it, and also a delicious vanilla scent that also reminded me of marshmallow a bit. The nose on this was really good while avoiding slapping me in the face with strong notes or a bunch of alcohol.

On the palate I first notice the texture. It came across as pretty watery and thin, particularly for its proof. However, the flavor seemed to go right in line with the nose. I first noticed the soft vanilla notes, again at times coming across as a marshmallow flavor. I also got a heavy dose of creamy caramel, like the kind of caramel you'd drizzle over ice cream. In this respect, the flavors worked really well together.

I also got hints of milk chocolate as well as a light, salty peanut note. Again, these are all flavors that have worked well together as long as man has known that each of these things are edible. Interestingly, though, about halfway through my bottle I made a note that over all this whiskey lacked in complexity and was "simple."  Looking back at that note, I'm fairly certain that what I meant by that is there was nothing that really stuck out or separated it from the pack.

This was a really good bourbon, and I thoroughly enjoyed the last few pours. In fact, I had quite a few in my last sitting with this bottle, as I just found myself pouring just a bit more, and then just a bit more. This is a classic bourbon with all the right sweet and dessert-like notes that you want to pull from a barrel. While it may have been "simple" to me, it was nonetheless very tasty, full of vanilla and caramel, and at an incredible price!

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Kentucky Straight Rye


- $60
- 112.2 Proof
- Kentucky

It's been a while since I've been really excited for a new release, but when Wild Turkey announced the release of Rare Breed as a new regular in its line-up, I was practically giddy.  I've made no effort to hide my love for Wild Turkey ryes, and a barrel proof Turkey Rye under the Rare Breed label would have been on my wishlist of whiskeys I want to see produced.  

When it got near the anticipated release date, and when I started seeing people in other parts of the country start posting pictures, that's when I began hounding my local liquor store manager. I'm sure I couldn't have been more annoying, but each time I went in I simply asked, "Did the Rare Breed come in?"  "Not yet" was all I was ever told . . . until I wasn't.  When I finally got a bottle in my hands it was all I could do to wait until I got home to crack it open. I only hoped it would live up to all the hype I had built up in my head.

On the nose I got that familiar cinnamon spice. However, there were also softer notes as well. I also got a sort of buttered toast note, which reminded me of cinnamon sugar toast (a very underrated snack, by the way).  I also got a root beer note that I really liked. The vanilla undertones gave it hints of a root beer float. 

While the vanilla wasn't strong on the nose, it was very present in the flavor. This was one of the more vanilla forward ryes I've had in a long time. The cinnamon spice was also present, and it seemed to hit from front to back. It hit the tip of my tongue immediately with each sip, and it seemed to linger on the long finish.

That cinnamon paired with a honey and graham cracker note to provide a sweet, crackery flavor. There was also a healthy dose of caramel to add to the sweetness and give it a little bit more richness in flavor. This was certainly a sweeter rye, but it never got anywhere near being too sweet. As far as sweeter ryes go, this was right in my wheelhouse.

The vanilla that lingered throughout also stuck around for a long time on the finish, and on later pours seemed to pair with a sweet spearmint note that I couldn't get enough of. It added a light crispness to the whiskey that seemed to round it out.

Overall, I thought Wild Turkey hit this one out of the park. This rye is full of rich and complex flavors but is completely balanced. The high proof is almost not noticeable, and it provides the right balance of sweet and spicy. What's great is that it's not some super rare limited release, and we should be seeing this on shelves semi-regularly.  This is my whiskey of the year so far for 2020, and I need to go get more . . . like now!

Grade: A

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Baker's 13 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $115
- 107 Proof
- 13 Years
- Barrel No. 222056
- Kentucky

If you ask me, the Baker's re-branding is one of the best things that Beam has done in recent years. I've always been a fan of the Baker's small batch. Something about it has always hit the right notes for me, not to mention that I've got some fond memories of enjoying a nice tall pour of the stuff. That being said, the old labeling left much to be desired, and I think it was a bit reason why it was frequently the forgotten bourbon in Beam's small batch series.

I was excited for the re-branding, and just as excited for the switch from small batch to single barrel, even if for no other reason than that I anticipated it would generate more love for one of my favorite brands. The release of a 13 year limited edition only added to that excitement, and when one was offered to me, that was an incredibly easy yes. I only hoped it'd be as good as it was in my head before I plopped down that kind of cash.

The nose was hot, not only on the first pop of the cork, but even on the last few pours after the bottle had sat on my shelf for a while. Behind that alcohol burn, though, I was getting a lot of cinnamon and peanuts, a combination which initially seems alright, but then, when I thought about it, I could not recall ever having that combination of flavors before. I also got some hazelnut and chocolate, making this smell a lot like a cinnamon spiced Nutella. 

The flavor profile was not nearly as sweet as the nose led me to believe. There was a certain burnt sugar flavor, as well as a dark caramel sauce, like the sauce that's on flan.  There was also a soft, nougat flavor along with some milk chocolate.

However, there was something behind those flavors on each pour. I couldn't quite pin down a particular flavor, but it was an earthy and musty note. There was a certain amount of wood in the flavor, but that was coupled with a certain funk, like wood that had been out in the rain all night (and no, I've never eaten a log off the ground after a hard night's rain, but you get my point). There was just this constant musty note that seemed really odd.

Luckily there was a decent spice on the finish to keep me going back. The finish was probably the best part, with cinnamon and black pepper spice lingering for a long time, along with the peanut and nougat notes. It's only because of this long, tasty finish that the musty note didn't drive me away.

I really wanted to love this whiskey. In fact, when I initially tried a pour from my buddy's bottle (don't know if it was the same barrel or not), I thought it was great. My bottle, though, just had something funky and earthy to it that really distracted from everything else going on, which is a shame, because everything else that was going on was really delicious.

Grade: B-

Friday, August 14, 2020

Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon


- $30
- 108 Proof
- Barrel No. 000027100
- Kentucky

I do love it when the big distillers come out with a new line. Whether it's Four Roses releasing Small Batch Select, or Old Forester releasing a rye, or Heaven Hill releasing an Elijah Craig Rye, or Wild Turkey releasing a Rare Breed Rye (I'm seeing a trend here), it's always nice to see what will be a mainstay hit the shelves. I think this is so for two reasons.  First, what if it's really good?  How great is it to have really good whiskey available all the time!?! Second, the price is usually pretty decent as well.

So, without any advance notice (at least none that I saw anyway), Jim Beam released a single barrel, 108 proof whiskey. I've heard its whiskey aged 5-7 years (though I've confirmed nothing), and at 108 proof, it's going to pack a decent punch. It was a no-brainer to grab one off the shelf at $30 and give it a try. I was really hoping to find another regular for the rotation, but ultimately, that's probably not going to be the case.

The first thing I got on the nose was peanuts.  Not only that nutty flavor, but also a light saltiness to go with. I also got some sweet, candy-like notes of toffee and caramel. It also had some notes that had a little bite to them, like a dark cherry note as well as the smell of unsweetened tea.  There was even a light chocolate note to it. All in all, I really enjoyed everything together, even it it did seem a bit all over the place.

The palate was somewhat different, though. The primary flavor I got, both in earlier pours and the later pours, was a cherry cola flavor. It had that cherry note and even tartness, as well as a good level of sweetness in the caramel/cola flavor. 

It also had some wood notes to it that carried a bit of a tannic quality, which I found surprising given what I was told the range of the ages of the barrels. It was certainly more woody than expected. To balance that out, though, there was not only the sweet cola flavor, but also a nice, soft butterscotch note, which to me was the best part of this whiskey.

There was certainly a nutty quality to it, kind of like a black walnut but with a touch of sweet cashew. It was the best of both nut-worlds. At 108 proof, while I would have expected some heat on the finish, this seemed to have all heat on the finish, and that heat seemed to really mute any other flavors on the finish. The nuttiness did stick around for a little bit, but any of the flavors that I would have wanted to linger on the finish seemed to disappear.

Overall, this was a good-but-not great whiskey. I likely won't be reaching for it on the shelves again, primarily because there are better options at the price, there are so many new whiskeys coming out to try, and, quite frankly, there are so many other whiskeys I just haven't tried yet. My rotation of regulars is pretty small, and this one just isn't making the team.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Ezra Brooks Distiller's Collection Binny's Private Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel No. 7167078


- $30
- 107 Proof
- Barrel No. 7167078
- Kentucky

Lux Row Distillers have had quite a run recently of some pretty good and well-received products. Notably, seemingly out of nowhere the Rebel Yell 10-Year Single Barrel got all sorts of love from the bourbon community, and more recently, they released the Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength, which likewise has seen largely positive reviews.  I personally really liked both of them.

Binny's apparently took notice of this, and when Luxco, who owns these brands (as well as the Yellowstone brand), started a barrel program, it seems that Binny's went nuts with their picks. Within the span of a week they got multiple single barrel picks from the Ezra Brooks lineup a swell as the Rebel line and the Yellowstone line.  I had no idea these were even a thing, let alone that they would be coming in. The best part of all of it, though, is the pricing. This Ezra Brooks was only $30 for a 107 proof bourbon! How could I say no to that! In fact, on that basis alone I wish I had purchased more than one bottle.  

But, to make it even better, the whiskey itself was really good, too!  The nose was a bit soft, but the notes that I got were vanilla and a sort of sweet wheat bread. It also had a light cinnamon spice to it, and all of these together created a sort of a cinnamon bread note that was absolutely delicious.

On the palate, it packed significantly less heat than expected. Despite being 107 proof, it came across as soft, though not watered down. It just lacked that bold punch. That being said, that would be my only real criticism of this whiskey. I really loved everything else about it.

While the flavor came across as soft, it is actually suiting, as one of the most prominent notes I was getting was a creamy nougat flavor, like the middle of a 3 Musketeers bar. It was rich and sweet, but at the same time pillowy and buttery. It had a silky mouthfeel that perfectly matched its flavor.

It was also pretty caramel forward, which seemed to mix with a bit of a spicy cinnamon note. It was that cinnamon note that seemed to linger for a long time on the finish, longer than I had expected, actually. I'm not sure which I liked more, the nougat-forward note or the long spicy finish, but the two combined really struck the right chord with me.

I also got light notes of oak, though it wasn't the least bit tannic. I also got a lot of brown sugar and even at time a more molasses sweetness to it, but it never overpowered in the sweetness category. It was all really well-balanced and just a delicious bourbon to drink. 

Unfortunately, I never really got to share this with anyone. I'd be interested in what others thought. I've seen some say that other barrels were just average, and I've seen some give similar reviews to the very same barrel that I had. Perhaps I got lucky and just randomly got one of the better barrels, or perhaps I'd enjoy them all just the same. Who knows? But at $30 a pop, it's absolutely worth it to find out!

Grade: A

Friday, August 7, 2020

High West Campfire Distillery Exclusive Barrel Select Sherry Finished Blended Whiskey

- $60
- 101 Proof
- Barrel No. 13093
- Finish Time: 1 yr., 3 mos.
- Utah

It's no secret that I'm a big High West fan. For the most part (there are some exceptions), I love everything they put out, especially their ryes. But what I really love about High West is their barrel select program. It seems High West is constantly finding barrels to use for finishing their core line-up of bourbon, rye and blended whiskey, and their Barrel Select program is great! I've had some absolutely amazing bottles finished in port barrels, Scotch barrels, and most recently one finished in Armagnac barrels that was one of the best whiskeys I've had in a long time.

So, when some buddies and I went to visit a friend at the distillery in Wanship, Utah, we made it a point to hit up the gift shop before it closed. It was as though I was drawn like a magnet--as soon as I walked through the door my hand immediately reached for this bottle. They frequently have gift shop exclusive bottlings available, and I knew this would be coming home with me regardless of what it was. Luckily for me, though, I love a good, sherried peated Scotch, and I knew this would be right in line with my tastes.

As I often get with peated Scotches finished in sherry barrels, one of the first notes that I got on this was a barbecue sauce aroma. It was smokey and fruity, with rich cherry notes. It offered a bit more complexity than I expected, though, as I also got a caramel and even cherry cola note. Consistent with the smoke, I got a bit of a burnt marshmallow note as well.

As to flavor, I likewise found more flavor than I had expected to.  Of course, I got a lot of smoke that I expected (and which makes peated Scotches somewhat divisive, especially among bourbon drinkers). The fruit notes, however, came across a bit lighter and brighter, more like a raspberry flavor than cherry. 

It had a lot of cinnamon spice to it, and that spice, along with the raspberry flavor and the smoke, certainly reminded me of a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. It even seemed to be sweetened up a bit by a soft honey note.

I did get other flavors that I'd traditionally associate with Scotch over rye or bourbon. I got a sweet pipe tobacco flavor, and even some floral notes. I couldn't tell you which flower I was tasting (my palate is not that refined, nor do I have the necessary experience eating and tasting various flowers), but it was light and soft and herbal, kind of like lavender.

The finish, aside from the smoke that lingered, carried more of a pastry note. It was soft and bready, and it reminded me of King's Hawaiian bread--that sweet and light bread that I can just eat all day on its own.

I know that campfire itself can be somewhat divisive, and certainly peated whiskey is. In fact, one of my buddies that was with me when I got this bottle grabbed one for himself, and he hated it to the point that he was looking to give away his bottle. I, however, absolutely loved this and thought it was a really well done finish on a product I already really liked. I enjoyed the last few pours around my fire pit in my back yard, and I couldn't have pictured a more fitting whiskey for that purpose.

Grade: A-

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Russell's Reserve Binny's Private Barrel Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel #20-0015

- $55
- 110 Proof
- Barrel #20-0015
- Kentucky

It feels like it's been a while since Binny's, or any liquor store near me for that matter, got in any Russel's Reserve private picks. I've always had a tendency to gravitate towards them, and I've come across some absolutely stellar bottles. But it seems like for the past year or so we've been in a Russel's picks drought. Luckily for me, though, a couple weeks ago Binny's got in a nice haul of a few different Russel's Reserve barrels as well as some Kentucky Spirit barrels.

A buddy and I each grabbed a different barrel (if only I could have gotten one of each), and he got around to opening his before I could get to mine. His impression was essentially that it was just fine. It was a good whiskey, but not great, nothing to write home to mom about. That was a bit disappointing, and unfortunately I don't know what barrel he had. That being said, that's the best part of single barrels--each one is different. So his initial impressions motivated me to go ahead and crack mine open.

The nose on this was absolutely delicious. Right away I got rich notes of chocolate and cherry. That was balanced by a spicy cinnamon note, kind of like cinnamon sticks. There was also a layer of aroma that smelled a lot like chocolate chip cookies. These flavors all worked so well together, like some new type of amazing Christmas cookie that my wife needs to learn how to make.

The flavor didn't come across quite as bold. In fact, it didn't seem to drink up to its proof, if that makes sense. It wasn't as strong in flavor as I expected it to be given that it was 110 proof. That being said, the flavors were nonetheless delicious, and it had a sweet complexity to it that I really enjoyed.

I got a bunch of the traditional notes of brown sugar and caramel. Neither one was really dominant enough to be bomb-worthy (i.e. a "caramel bomb" as the kids on the internet would say). It actually had a really good balance of both flavors. 

What was missing, though, was the spice. I've become used to a certain level of spice in my Turkey products, at least in their bourbons certainly. Here, however, while there was a slight cinnamon flavor and spicy tingle, it just wasn't very strong. This came across as more of a sweeter bourbon, a profile which I would liken to a wheated bourbon, with any heat coming solely on the finish.

This was certainly a sweeter, dessert-like bourbon. It had this buttery quality to it, not in texture but in flavor, that was a lot like buttercream frosting. There was a healthy-enough dose of vanilla to make this work really well, and with the brown sugar seemed to come across like a frosted chocolate chip cookie (like those giant cookies you used to walk past at the mall).

This bottle was interesting. I expected a certain profile going in, and found that it wasn't at all what I expected. However, it proved to be a very tasty bourbon, and one certainly on the sweeter end. While I tend to lean more towards a spicier bourbon, this one was still really good, and I found myself working my way through the bottle at a pretty rapid rate. It certainly keeps me interested in finding more Russel's private picks.

Grade: B+