Saturday, October 31, 2020

Mississippi River Distilling Cody Road Experimental Rye Whiskey Finished in Brandy Barrels

- $30
- 80 Proof
- Batch 1
- Iowa

It's been almost six years since I've purchased a Cody Road bottle  I'm not really sure why, though. The last one I had was a Binny's private select rye, which I thought was great! But with the overabundance of smaller, craft distilleries that are out there to try, not to mention the seemingly endless stream of products from the big guys, I just never made my way back to Cody Road rye.

This one, however, caught my eye. At first it was the bright pink/purple colors on the label. That really stood out among the sea of green rye labels.  Then it was the edgy looking "X" right on the label, telling me this was certainly one bad-ass whiskey (okay, not really, but it certainly doesn't exude "fancy"). Then, it was the fact that it's brandy finished -- I've always been a fan of such finishes. And what sealed the deal here was the price -- a mere $30!  Now it is only 80 proof, and likely a younger whiskey, but I was still more than willing to give this whiskey a try at that price.

The nose was definitely fruity, as would be expected. I immediately got notes of apple cider and cedar. There were also notes of green grapes and baked pears. In addition to that, though, I also got come rich brown sugar notes, as well as a bit of nutmeg. It definitely had a sort of apple pie quality, with a few other flavors added in. 

When I took my first sip, the first thing I noticed was the very watery texture. Of course, this is to be expected given the low 80 proof. It struck me as a bit more watered down than I anticipated, though. This resulted in it coming across as pretty light in flavor, which was disappointing. I really wanted that brandy barrel finish to shine.

What flavors that were there, though, were quite frankly what I was hoping to get. I got that apple pie note, with notes of baked apples and cinnamon. It even had a light, graham crackery note to it, like a sweeter pie crust. The baked pear from the nose came through as well.

The finish was probably what I liked the most about it, even if it didn't last very long. On the finish I got this sticky maple syrup note that changed direction from the other flavors just enough to make it interesting. On later pours it was still there but was more of a brown sugar and butter note which was my favorite part of tasting this whiskey.

All in all, I wanted a bit more from this, but at this price, if I'm in the mood for a brandy finished whiskey, it'd certainly have the potential to be a grab again.

Grade: B-

Monday, October 26, 2020

Buffalo Trace Liquor 'n' Wine Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon


- $25
- 90 Proof
- Kentucky

As far as my whiskey hobby goes, I feel like I'm pretty lucky living where I live. Not only do I have a Binny's just minutes from my home, but I can spend 20 minutes driving from my house and back and hit up five different liquor stores other than Binny's, all of which have decent to very good whiskey selections, all of which get their own store picks from time to time, and nearly all have great craft beer selections. It's even the envy of some of my friends who live a bit farther away.

This is just another such example.  Liquor 'n' Wine is a local chain here in the Western Suburbs of Chicago with I believe five different locations. They do get the highly sought after allocated stuff like BTAC and Pappy, and they do sell those bottles at a hefty mark-up (sold in packages with 6-7 other bottles that most people looking for these things would otherwise not be interested in). But, I still pop in from time to time, without even glancing at what's on the shelves behind the counter, and go straight to the bourbon wall just for bottles like this where, for $25, I know I'm getting a solid if not really good whiskey.

The nose was interesting.  I've come to expect a certain profile from Buffalo Trace, and this one was just slightly off.  Sometimes with store picks that's a good thing, sometimes its bad.  Here, I wasn't really sure which way this one fell. It had that caramel note I expected, but there were also some spices and bitterness. I got pumpkin pie notes, as well as a rich espresso note on the nose. Don't get me wrong, it smelled sweet, and I even got some delicious chocolate caramel notes at times, but it definitely had some more earthy spices and bitterness to offset.

As to flavor, the brown sugar and caramel that I expected to be there was certainly front and center. It immediately struck me as a sweeter bourbon, as I got minimal spice up front. That brown sugar and caramel eventually seemed to turn into a cola note, and then in later pours into a cherry cola note. I actually really enjoyed these notes.

However, somewhere in the middle of each taste other flavors seemed to pop in, some good and some not so great. As to the good, I got a root beer note, not like the super sugary root beer you get off the shelves at the grocery store, but one of those more flavorful specialty root beers that derive their flavor from something other than a cup of sugar per 12 ounces. 

However, I the cherry notes I was getting at times leaned towards anise flavor, and when they did this it seemed to come on a bit strong. Some people might like this. I, however, did not.  Also, throughout this bottle I got this really weird note that I likened to wet cardboard. Now, I certainly don't hang out on my couch eating cardboard every night while watching Food Network. But, I've certainly tasted cardboard before, as have most people I'm pretty sure, and this is what I was reminded me of.  Not my favorite of tasting notes I've ever had. 

The wet carboard note aside, this was still a very solid pour, especially for $25, and I won't ever stop buying these when I see them.

Grade: B-

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Dewar's Blended 21 Year Double Double Aged Blended Scotch Whisky


- $50 (375 ml)
- 92 Proof
- 21 Years
- Scotland

Not too long ago Whiskey Advocate came out with its list of the Top 20 Whiskies of 2019. The list drew a lot of criticism and skepticism, and rightly so.  But nonetheless, I made it a point to grab a couple of the bottles near the top of the list that I had not yet tried. One was their #1 rated whiskey, George Dickel Bottled In Bond.  I was not a fan, and I immediately questioned the credibility of the remainder of the rankings and how that whiskey could possibly have made the top of anybody's list. 

Nonetheless, I made it a point to grab another off the list, the #2 whiskey, Dewar's Blended 21 Year Double Aged Scotch. Granted, I grabbed this before actually trying the Dickel, but that was due in part to it having been recommended to me by the spirits manager from my local Binny's well-before this list actually came out. So, there wasn't a whole lot of hesitation in trying it, other than that it was $50 for a .375 ml bottle. But I figured I've paid more for less.

It's been a while since I've done a Scotch, and I feel like I've been doing myself a disservice. Between Scotch and bourbon, I think, as far as the smell goes, my preference is Scotch. I got a decent amount of oak and leather on the nose of this one. But, I also got sweet tobacco leaf, one of my favorite smells in the world. In addition to these earthy notes, though, I also got some bright notes of dried apricot, as well as a baked goods kind of note, kind of like banana bread. I also got the slightest grainy note, but it was sweet, like caramel corn. 

As to flavor, this was very malty and crackery, like a wheat thin type cracker -- savory but with a little bit of sweetness to it.  The banana bread that I got on the nose was fairly prominent as well, providing a bit of richness to go with that malty note. 

Much like the nose, the flavor also had a bright note to it, again reminding me of apricot, but sweeter than simply dried apricots. It was more like an apricot jam. I also got notes of banana (consistent with the banana bread flavor, I know), as well as a bit of a peppery spice. Additionally, I got a light coffee note, but not so bitter as to provide a rough edge. In fact, there was not a single rough edge, overstated flavor or overdone note to this whisky.  It really had great balance.

This is only 92 proof, but it had a great, buttery texture to it that provided a nice, long finish. What seemed to linger the most on the finish was the banana and black pepper spice. However, it was also on the finish that I really seemed to notice the Sherry cask influence, as I also got notes of raspberry and cranberry--bright berry notes with a touch of bitterness to it to keep it from getting too sweet.

I loved this whiskey. It was full of nuance and complexity, and somehow it all worked perfectly well together. It reminded me a lot of why I initially got into Scotch in the first place. On this one I can't fault Whiskey Advocate for such a high ranking. This was delicious! I only wish it came in a bigger bottle!

Grade: A

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Tattersall Binny's Private Select Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey

- $40
- 132.6 Proof
- Min. 2 yrs.
- Minnesota

This was an interesting pickup for me. I first noticed this on the shelf due to the label.  It seemed very "Scottish" looking to me with the plaid patterns and certainly seemed out of place among all the other ryes on the shelf. Having not recognized anything about the bottle, I passed. But the next time I was in the store, I took a closer look.  

This wasn't just some rye from some unknown distillery, but rather it was a store pick from that distiller. Not only that, it was from Minnesota (and actually distilled there)--can't say I've had a Minnesota whiskey before. And most compelling, this was bottled at 132.6 proof! While I haven't gone back through my archives to confirm, I can't recall ever having a rye that came anywhere close to that proof. So, with all that going for it, at $40, I now had no reason not to bring it home.

The nose is heavy on the pine. It immediately reminded me of some of my other favorite, punchy ryes like the Willet Family Estate small batch ryes, Wilderness Trail and Driftless Glen. A good start! Underneath the pine was a healthy amount of vanilla and spearmint. It also had this root beer note as well as a sweet candy bar note to it, like chocolate and caramel. This nose was pungent but full of delicious aromas.

The first three notes I wrote down immediately after my first sip were vanilla, spearmint and root beer. Much like the nose, these flavors absolutely dominated here. The combination was really enjoyable, and I was surprised that there wasn't more of a pine flavor to get in the way--a good surprised.  I also had the immediate thought that this was way too easy to drink for its proof.  Not only did the pine not get in the way, but the alcohol took a backseat as well.

It had a certain sweet and spicy note to it, and I got a distinct fennel spice to it at times. It wasn't overpowering, but just enough fennel to let you know it's there (and it doesn't take much). That fennel note brought with it those associated notes of anise and black licorice, but again, not enough to turn me off, and I'm not a huge fan of anise.

Other notes seemed to sneak in from time to time, including a grainy bran cereal note. I also got sweet tobacco leaf and molasses from time to time. This really came across as rich, thick and sticky. On what was a really long finish, I got the vanilla and spearmint, but also a semi-sweet butterscotch note that I really enjoyed. This was probably my favorite part of each sip, as it left a sweet and delicious flavor behind, causing me to dive right back in for that next sip.

I'm so glad I tried this. This was an excellent, bold and punchy rye, and it reminded me of why I make myself try stuff I otherwise may not know much about.  I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for this brand in the future.

Grade: B+

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Sagamore Spirit Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey


- $60
- 112.2 Proof
- Batch No 10AA
- Maryland/Indiana

Sagamore Spirit is one of those brands that I've been seeing on the shelves for years now, that seems to have some interesting products, and which has received, for the most part, really positive reviews online. While it's been on my shortlist of products I've been wanting to try, I just never got around to grabbing a bottle off the shelf. I'm not really sure why, perhaps I just always found something else I wanted--a matter of priority.

Interestingly, though, after purchasing this bottle, I attended a bottle share at a local restaurant, and two Sagamore Spirit reps attended. So all of a sudden I was not only trying this cask strength rye, but I also got to sample their Double Oak Rye, their Muscatel Finished Rye and their Manhattan Finished Rye. This, however, was the only bottle that I purchased (and finished), so this is the only one that gets a review on here.

I got some of those traditional rye mint notes on the nose, as well as a bit of that dill note that I commonly associate with MGP ryes such as this. Of course, there was also a healthy dose of vanilla, but I also got some sweet, crackery notes as well as a decent amount of cinnamon spice. I have no idea as to the age of this rye, but it also had a certain dry, woody note on the nose.

On the first sip I got a healthy dose of cinnamon right up front. That was immediately followed by a number of sweet, dessert-like flavors, including notes of chocolate and vanilla, as well as a light honey sweetness.  I was immediately impressed by that balance of spicy and sweet right away, not to mention the boldness of the flavors. This was a punchy whiskey (which you want from a cask strength whiskey), but the flavors seemed all right on point.

It had a certain grainy or cereal note, but not necessarily a corn note as I so often get. Along with the honey note, I likened it to sort of a Honeycombs cereal flavor. 

The finish on this whiskey was outstanding. It had a nice, viscous texture that really coated the mouth and made for a nice, long finish that carried a nice, light black pepper spice. On top of that, though, was a bright citrus flavor, kind of like orange or nectarine. The mint carried as well to create this spicy yet citrusy and cooling flavor which, when mixed with the vanilla, all combined to make for a delicious mix!  

This was a fantastic bottle, and I still can't get over just how much I loved the finish on this. Compared to the other bottlings from Sagamore I got to try, this would certainly be my favorite (though perhaps those didn't get a fair shake). I did, however, really like the Double Oak as well, and I'm already eyeing the Cognac finish. Clearly I'll be picking up more Sagamore Spirit bottles down the road.

Grade: A-

Sunday, October 11, 2020

George Remus Binny's Single Barrel Select Straight Bourbon

- $65
- 124.2 Proof
- Barrel No. 483
- Indiana

I do love store picks. And I do love MGP bourbon. Luckily, both are usually pretty easy to find. The George Remus bourbon has been out for some time, but I hadn't taken the time to try it. I've had pretty much every other product coming straight out of MGP, such as Eight & Sand, Metze's Select and Rossville Union Rye.  I've even had the big brother of George Remus, the Remus Repeal Reserve Batch III (which was spectacular!), and they've all been really good.

So, when the opportunity to grab a store pick of George Remus bottled at cask strength, that was just something that I couldn't pass up.  And when you consider the prices that you see on other barrel strength bottlings of MGP product sold under a different label, $65 for a barrel strength single barrel of MGP bourbon is, in the end, a very decent price.

On the nose I got a lot of sweet bakery notes. There was a lot of brown sugar, as well as a sweet vanilla icing note. It had that baked goods smell to it as well, though, like the smell of cinnamon rolls or coffee cake. It even had a bit of a walnut note to it to kind of round out the experience. I only wish the nose was stronger than it was. Surprisingly, despite the high proof, I found the nose to be kind of soft and dainty.

I had a similar experience with the palate, too.  Despite being well over 120 proof, I got very minimal alcohol burn with each sip. That was very surprising, in a good way. It allowed the flavors to come through much more.

The first impression that I got from this was smooth, salted caramel. This is totally unrelatable, but I remember having salted caramel ice cream for the first time years ago while passing through Atlanta. I loved the flavor of that ice cream, and they even sprinkled a small amount of salt on the top. The flavor here reminded me of that experience.

It wasn't all sweet caramel, though. It had a grain forward note to it, kind of a corn flakes note, but sweeter. Perhaps more like Frosted Flakes? It also had more earthy notes. There was a distinct but not strong wood note to it, and the walnut note that I got on the nose came through as well.

This bourbon had a long, sweet finish. There was no spice on the back end, but rather more of a dark brown sugar note that stuck around, and at times it was almost a molasses note that lingered.  I was surprised at how sweet this whiskey was, and I did yearn for a bit more spice. But all in all, this was well worth the price of admission.

Grade: B+