Monday, November 30, 2020

Yellowstone Liquor 'n' Wine Private Barrel Select Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $35
- 93 Proof
- 4 Years
- Kentucky

I'm a sucker for store picks.  And I'm even more of a sucker for very affordable store picks. That's why my whiskey closet is always stocked with at least one Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig, Eagle Rare and Knob Creek pick at any given moment. They are all solid bourbons on their own, and I love the possibility and hope of getting something phenomenal at a great price. While it doesn't happen every time, it happens often enough to make it well worth the spend.

I don't come across Yellowstone picks nearly as frequently. But, when I was meandering through the aisles of my local Liquor 'n' Wine a couple months back, this one caught my eye, and for $35, it was an easy decision to buy it. Generally speaking, to me regular Yellowstone has been good but not necessarily great. But, I figure the odds were in my favor that whatever was in this bottle was not likely to be any worse, and there was a good chance I'd get something better and at a great price.

On the nose I got a lot of brown sugar and caramel. It was certainly sweet, but that richer sweet. Interestingly, I got a light bitter note, almost a tannic note, which was surprising given the relatively young age of the whiskey. It also had a light black pepper and cinnamon spice to it, as well as a touch of almond.

My initial impressions of the flavor were that the sweetness was there, but it came across as muted. It was almost as though it had the caramel flavor but without the caramel sweetness. It was kind of odd in this respect.

I also got some funky flavors as well. I noted at one point that I got a bit of mustiness, and from time to time that mustiness came across as a leathery flavor. Either way it had an earthiness to it that, if this were a sweeter bourbon, would have been fine. Here, however, I wasn't a big fan.

Throughout the bottle, at least up until the last couple pours, the flavor remained a bit muted. I did get some more interesting notes, like a bright, citrusy orange note as well as a toasted almond type note. I even got a sort of a coffee note, perhaps that bitterness I was getting on the nose. It reminded me of a macchiato.  I really felt like this drank like an older bourbon, one with 15+ years, given the amount of wood and bitterness I was getting. 

Interestingly, ad I've had this happen before, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise, but the last two pours from the bottom of this bottle were absolutely outstanding. They were sweeter, had a bit more cinnamon spice, and were absolute caramel bombs. A lot of the bitterness completely subsided.  If the entire bottle struck me the way these last two pours did, this would have easily been an A+ bottle. They were that good! I only wish every other pour could have been as good. That said, funky notes aside, I'll still be keeping my eye out for more Yellowstone picks, even if just to relive the experience of those last two pours.

Grade: B

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Wild Turkey Master's Keep 17 Year Bottled In Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $190
- 100 Proof
- 17 Years
- Kentucky

It seems as though the Master's Keep Collection from Wild Turkey has been gathering some steam these past couple years from a bourbon hunting perspective. The first couple releases in this series seemed to sit on the shelf for quite a while. In fact, I was still seeing them up until last year. My guess is that the price has always been a bit prohibitive (that and the fact that it's not a Buffalo Trace product).  Lately though, they've seemed to move pretty quickly. Perhaps it's a matter of the bourbon market catching up with the price of these releases.

When this 17 year bottled in bond bourbon was announced as the next in the Master's Keep line, I was pretty excited. And so were most people on social media. While Cornerstone had some anticipation, this was one that people were actively planning on chasing down. And so, I was quite thrilled when I was able to land one, even at the price. I've loved everything from this line to date, so I wanted to make sure to get this one, hype or not. 

As would be expected with a 17 year old bourbon, the first note I got off the nose was oak. It actually smelled dry, if that makes sense. Perhaps I was picking up on the oak tannins on the nose. However, I also got some sweeter, richer notes of caramel and burnt sugar. It also had a nice peppery spice as well as a bit of orange peel to add some bright bitterness.

Much like the nose, I got a significant amount of wood on the palate. It wasn't over-oaked, though. Rather, that was just the character of this particular bourbon, if that makes sense. I appreciate a certain amount of oak in my bourbon, something to counter some of the sweetness. While this was on the oakier side, it didn't cross that threshold of being too oaky.

Beyond that, it came across as very complex, with a lot of rich, delicious flavors all working with one another. There was a significant amount of dark cherry, as well as some rich amaretto notes. Both these notes played very well with the wood notes. 

I also got coffee notes, adding a somewhat different bitter quality, along with some anise and cinnamon spice. Even the orange peel that I was getting on the nose made its way into the show from time to time, adding a bit of brightness.  It was full of flavors that are associated with sweetness, but without being sweet itself. It even had a vanilla bean undercurrent to it, without taking on that sweetened vanilla note. 

The finish was mostly cinnamon and even a bit of black pepper. Toffee notes also carried through on the finish, along with a touch of leather. It wasn't a very long finish, but it was full of flavor and I didn't wait very long to take each next sip anyway.

I really loved this whiskey. If you're not a fan of oak, you might not like this, and you probably won't want to spend the money on a bottle. However, if you do like a good, oaky bourbon, this might be right up your alley. It was full of rich flavors that seemed to complement that oak note in a way that made this bourbon interesting and ultimately delicious.

Grade: A

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Shenk's Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey - 2019


- $60
- 91.2 Proof
- Batch No. 19G1138
- Kentucky

I have long been a fan of Michter's, particularly their ryes. I still yearn for the days when their barrel strength rye used to collect dust on shelves. But those days are gone. Nonetheless, Michter's is releasing more products than ever these days, including all sorts of special releases from 10 year single barrel ryes and bourbons, to much older whiskeys to toasted barrel finishes. They also continue to release their Bomberger's Declaration and Shenk's Homestead whiskeys.

These are two brands that Michter's has purchased and revitalized so to speak, and what I've had of them has been delicious.  I last had the Bomberger's in 2018, and I couldn't get enough of that one. So, of course, when the Shenk's Homestead was offered to me, I jumped on it (and I've since obtained a 2020 Shenk's as well that I'm still working my way through).  I figured I had very little to lose and much to gain.

My initial impression of the nose was that it was sweet and nutty, kind of like honey roasted peanuts. However, the more I stuck my nose in my glass, the more the sweetness came forward, but it was a richer sweetness, like good, real maple syrup. It had a bit of a pancakes vibe to it which I liked, even with a touch of cinnamon sprinkled in.

The flavor wasn't exactly pancakes, though. Rather, I got a heavy dose of brown sugar and cinnamon, and it was very traditional in flavor in this respect. It certainly came in on the sweeter side, with the spiciness taking a bit of a back seat.

However, the nuttiness from the nose as well as the sweet maple syrup note did come through. Rather than giving a "pancakes vibe," though, it had more of a pecan pie feel to it. It even had a bit of a graham cracker crust note to round it all out. 

The dessert motif didn't stop there, however.  There was also a lighter sweetness mixed in as well, like a honey and wheat note. There was also a buttery note as well, and on later pours from the bottle I was getting a sort of brown sugar crumble flavor, the kind that would go on top of coffee cake or an apple crisp. It even had a slight doughy pastry note.

On the finish I got all brown sugar and vanilla, and again very minimal cinnamon spice. However, the finish was long and those dessert-like flavors seemed to coat my mouth after every sip. 

Overall, this was a great whiskey (I've been careful not to call it a bourbon), particularly if you're one who like your bourbons on the sweeter side (as so many bourbon drinkers do).  I tend to lean more towards spice, so this wasn't necessarily up my alley. That being said, again, this was a great whiskey with lots of richness and depth of flavor, and I had a hard time putting down my glass.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

New Riff Balboa Rye Bottled In Bond Kentucky Straight Rye


- $55
- 100 Proof
- 4 Years
- Kentucky

I feel like it's been a while since I had anticipation for a rye release. Certainly I was excited for the recent Master's Keep Cornerstone from Wild Turkey and the Parker's Heavy Char. But that was well over a year ago now, and I feel like there has been a dearth of new, exciting rye releases hitting the shelves.

Luckily, New Riff has come through for me. They recently released a wheated product, labeled "Maltster," and at the same time that hit the shelves, so did this, the Balboa Rye. This is a rye whiskey made using . . . you guessed it, Balboa rye, which is an heirloom rye that is commonly grown in Indiana. Beyond that, I knew very little else going into this bottle, except that it was a new, special release rye from New Riff, and that so far I've absolutely loved the ryes that New Riff has been pumping out.

The nose on this was delicious. The first note that I wrote down was cherry cola. But it was a darker cherry note, and not quite as sweet. I also got a light breadiness as well as a peanut butter cookie note. Again, though, this was all without it coming across as sweet, but rather as rich and decadent. What did it for me, though, was that all of this was complemented by a black pepper note that had my mouth watering.

As to flavor, my first impression was that it had a very Old Fashioned flair to it. I was immediately getting notes of Luxardo Maraschino cherries, as well as that bright but slightly bitter note of orange peel.  It had just the slightest amount of sweetness to it.

It very much came across as a fruit-forward rye, with cherry being the most prominent note. However, I did get notes of blackberries and dates from time to time as well.  Interestingly, though, the fruit notes all seemed to be layered over a pecan-type nuttiness. In that sense it reminded me of a spiced pie.

I did get other notes finding their way in as well, including a bit of an odd flavor that to me was kind of a blend of dark chocolate and dill.  This is probably the result of a more fruit-forward grain that still met up with that strong rye spice. It wasn't necessarily a bad note, but it was a bit odd.

The finish, however, was all cherry and vanilla. Luckily that odd chocolate-dill note did not linger. However, the black pepper I was finding on the nose did make its way through on the finish, adding enough spice to make me want to go right back in for my next sip. 

While I wasn't blown away by this, I love the experimentation with rye variants, and New Riff continues to put out delicious ryes, and this was no exception. I'd certainly urge anyone else to try it, though, as my friends who also had pours out of this bottle were, in fact, blown away and couldn't have given it higher marks. So take my review with a grain of salt. 

Grade: B+ 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Elijah Craig Binny's Single Barrel Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel No. 5684209


- $30
- 94 Proof
- NAS (10 Years)
- Barrel No. 5684209
- Kentucky

I feel like more and more I've been finding some incredibly solid bourbons at some incredibly affordable prices with the Elijah Craig store picks. They are usually priced around $30, and the last few that I've had have been really good.  

Binny's usually gets these in batches, though, and when they got this last batch in, I had my eyes on other things. I still wasn't going out of my way to pick these up. However, the spirits manager there informed me that this particular barrel was a 10-year bourbon (the oldest of this batch of picks they got in). And so, just like that he sold me on it. I really am an easy sale, though. 

The nose was interesting, and certainly off profile for Elijah Craig. I got some brown sugar as well as a bit of almond that leaned a bit towards amaretto. I even got an interesting peanut butter note. What was a touch odd, though, was that I got a bit of cedar shavings. It reminded me of my kids hamster cages (at least when they've been freshly cleaned).  It wasn't a bad note, just a bit of an odd one.

Luckily, I didn't get that cedar shavings note in the flavor. I did get more traditional notes of cinnamon and caramel. There was even a nice dark chocolate flavor that worked really well with everything else. In this respect, it was more on profile with what I'm used to getting out of Elijah Craig. I also got a root beer flavor throughout that, while not prominent, was still really delicious and seemed to work well with everything else.

I also got a decent amount of cloves, and that flavor was most noticeable on the finish. That cloves note seemed to linger for quite a while. I was also getting a bit of orange peel, though, which added just a touch of bitterness to counter some of the sweetness from the brown sugar notes.

Just like the nose had a bit of oddity to it, though, so did the flavor. I got a sort of chalkiness. And by that, I don't mean in the texture, but a chalky flavor. I'm not sure how best to describe it, except that it tastes like the air after you smack two chalkboard erasers together. It wasn't a strong note, but it nonetheless stood out, primarily for its strangeness. 

If it weren't for that weird chalkiness, I would have absolutely loved this bourbon. Luckily it wasn't a very strong note, and I had no problems whatsoever finishing this bottle, and enjoying every pour along the way. 

Grade: B

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Canadian Club Chronicles 41 Year Blended Canadian Whiskey


- $250
- 90 Proof
- 41 Years
- Canada

It's totally a stupid thing, but for quite some time I always had as one of my whiskey bucket-list items to drink a whiskey that was older than me.  I called it a bucket-list item, because for the most part that limited me to single malt Scotches, and it put me into the thousands of dollars for a bottle. It was honestly just something fun to consider but nothing I really thought I'd ever get the chance to do.

Then Canadian Club came out with Chronicles - a 41 year Canadian whiskey (I was 39 at the time) to which small amounts of Cognac, rye and sherry had been added. So it wasn't necessarily a "straight whiskey," having these additives. But, what it did have was a fairly reasonable and certain attainable price point and availability. Even then I wasn't necessarily sold, but when I got a very nice bonus at work, I yielded and decided to treat myself, and to check off that bucket-list item.

The nose in this was both sweet and bitter. It had a bright, jammy raspberry note to it, but also had that accompanying tartness of fresh raspberries. I also got notes of vanilla and peach, and it reminded me a bit of a fruit tart in that respect. However, there was also this sort of grassy, straw-like note, a bit of earthiness to keep it from getting too crazy.

As for flavor, the first thing I noticed was the sherry. I have no idea how much sherry had been added, but that raspberry-esque flavor I so often associate with sherry finished whiskeys was up front and center.  

Once I got past the initial sherry hit, though, I got more confectionary flavors, like a smooth caramel that was mixed with a bit of burnt orange and even cooked peach. It almost took on a cobbler-type flavor. It even had a good buttery flavor to it to kind of round it all out.

On the back end I got the slightest amount of wood.  I really expected a lot more. In fact, given the very light straw color of this whiskey and the lack of significant wood influence, I would never in a million years have guessed this was aged for 41 years. The finish also hit me with a distinct note of unsweetened peach tea. It was bitter, but had just a little bit of sweet brightness added by the peach.

Unfortunately, throughout each sip I took I did get a consistent note that did put me off a bit. It was a fake sugary flavor, almost like artificial maple syrup and brown sugar, the same type of flavor you get from similarly flavored oatmeal packets. While I like it just fine in oatmeal, it didn't work for me in whiskey, and it was just always kind of there.

Overall, I love that I got to drink a whiskey that was older than I am, and that I was able to do so without absolutely killing my budget. However, when the 42 year is released, and each subsequent release thereafter comes out, I don't see myself opening up my wallet to get a bottle. This one served its purpose.

Grade: B-

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Old Scout Binny's Private Selection 5 Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $55
- 118.4 Proof
- 5 Years
- Barrel No. 23859
- Indiana

There was quite a gap in time between private selections of Old Scout being offered. It seems like I had not seen any on the shelves since 2016 or 2017 or so. A short while back there were some older ones available at Binny's and Woodman's that were sourced from Dickel, but I didn't bite at those (though a part of me wishes I at least gave them a try).

So, when I saw this 5 year store pick single barrel on the shelf at $55, I decided not to pass it up. Obviously it's significantly younger, but I do like my MGP whiskey, and particularly at cask strength.  Add to that that it's a store pick, and it was a pretty easy decision. I remember I first opened this bottle when the pandemic lockdown first began in March. It was only now, though, that I made it a point to finish it off.

Interestingly, this was kind of a tale of two whiskeys. The way it tasted back in March was completely different than when I finished the bottle off in October and November. When I first opened this bottle, all I could smell was cinnamon. It was like I opened up a pack of Big Red. There was also a slight tobacco note and even a pumpkin pie sort of note. I also got a certain corn syrupy note as well.

At to flavor, though on the first pours it was all Big Red gum, or cinnamon red hots, or fireball candy. You get the point. That artificial cinnamon candy flavor was pretty much all I could taste, and it was just way too much. I actually found that flavor very hard to overcome, and it really wasn't that great of an experience. 

So, I put it back on my shelf and didn't revisit it for a few months. Luckily, when I did, that cinnamon candy note had subsided. Not entirely, but enough that I was able to pick up other flavors and actually enjoyed the whiskey. It was a completely different bourbon than the one I had back in March.

Sweet but earthy notes of vanilla and pecan came through. It also had a slight woodiness to it. These flavors seemed to balance out that cinnamon note, which was still pretty prevalent. It was kind of like pecan pie but with cinnamon red hots mixed in.

The finish was full of cinnamon spice, but the natural vanilla flavor accompanied it, making for a pretty enjoyable finish that lingered for quite a while.

While I really didn't like this at all when I first opened it up, by the time I got towards the end of the bottle, I found I went through it pretty quickly. If it tasted this way from the beginning, I may have given it a higher grade.

Grade: B

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 Straight Bourbon Whiskey


- $45
- 111 Proof
- 2 Years
- Batch No. 20A20R
- Tennessee

I knew very little about Chattanooga Whiskey prior to getting this bottle. Quite frankly, I know very little about it now. But, I had at least heard of Chattanooga Whiskey, and I had certainly heard at least some positive feedback. So, when my assistant took a trip to Chattanooga to take her daughter to college, and she asked me what she could bring back for me, this was the first thing that came to mind. After all, at that time, it just wasn't something that I could find in Illinois (though I did see it here for the first time a couple days ago).

This bottle is young, with an age statement of "greater than 2 years."  However, they do provide a lot of information on their label. The mashbill is yellow corn, malted rye, caramel malted barley and honey malted barley. The batch size is 6-10 barrels, and the barrels used were 53 gallon barrels, apparently both toasted and charred. And it's unfiltered. This all came from the label. It even provided the fermentation period! So, with all that transparency, with a unique mashbill, high proof and no filtration, I was excited to try this regardless of its young age.

The nose gave off that apple note that I get off of young whiskeys, but rather than an overripe apple note, it was more of a crisp, fresh apple note. I actually kind of enjoyed it. It also had some graham cracker to it, some corn notes, as well as a bit of caramel, reminding me a bit of caramel apples. I also got a sweet butterscotch pudding note as well that I thought was interesting.

As to the flavor, I didn't get that crisp apple note, but I did get other bright fruits. It was on the sweeter side, and I got distinct flavors of apricot and orange. I also got a light bitterness to go with it, like melon rind. The amount of citrus was unexpected.

I also got the sweet, dessert-like flavors that I got on the nose. There was a healthy amount of caramel and butterscotch to counter the citrus flavors and that bitter note. At times I got some red licorice notes as well, even leaning towards a cherry cordial flavor. 

The finish was more of the same, but with an added black pepper spice that I didn't get anywhere else. The caramel notes seemed to stick around for quite a while as well, lending to a nice sweet and spicy finish.

Overall, this was pretty good. While it had some of the characteristics of young whiskey, those characteristics worked and were actually interesting, as opposed to being a turn off.  I think that it's priced right for what you get here, and it's certainly worth a pick-up.

Grade: B

Friday, November 13, 2020

Bushmill's Blended Irish Whiskey


- $18
- 80 Proof
- Ireland

This seems like a bit of a weird review, only for the fact that this is a whiskey that everyone has probably tried at some point. It'd be kind of like reviewing Jameson or Jim Beam White.  It's not like anybody is going to make a purchasing decision based on a review of Bushmill's. That being said, I've always maintained that I write this blog more as a journal for myself, as opposed to for the benefit of others. After all, as I've said in the past, reviews are stupid.

But, this was a gift for boss' day. I'm not one to turn away any whiskey, and I knew I would eventually polish off this bottle at some point. So, with an empty bottle of a whiskey that has yet to make an appearance here on this blog, not to mention the fact that my Irish whiskeys are few and far between, I decided to nonetheless write this one up.  So here goes . . .

On the nose the very first note I wrote down was oatmeal raisin cookie. This was exactly where my mind went as soon as I smelled this. It had the softness of the oat grain, the sweet brown sugar as well as the rich fruity raisin note. I also got some other aromas, though, particularly in later pours after this sat for a while, such as black pepper and nutmeg, and even a bright apricot note. At times I also got a kind of a white wine note, like a chardonnay.

As for flavor, this comes across as very sweet and, particularly given the low proof, very easy to drink. I didn't get the oatmeal raisin cookie so much as I did a mouthful of honey with a light citrus lemon note.  Perhaps this would be good for soothing a sore throat?

The bright apricot and black pepper were also present, mingling with a layer of vanilla bean that made it far more interesting and tasty than I expected when I first received this bottle. It also had a crackery note to it, albeit a plain on, kind of like saltines. 

The finish came across as a bit peppery, and the honey lingered as well. However, I also got something very weird on the finish that really turned me off. I likened it to a mix of cardboard and soap--oddly two flavors that I think most people might actually be able to relate to. I know I've tasted both. While it wasn't overly offensive, it just wasn't great.

All in all, this is fine, and if presented with limited options, I'd be fine choosing this.  But overall, I'm not likely to buy another bottle myself, particularly with that weird finish.

Grade: C

Monday, November 9, 2020

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey


- $55
- 114.4 Proof
- 4 Years
- Barrel No. 16745
- Indiana

I remember when I first started to really get into the bourbon hunt. That was around the time that well-aged bottle of Old Scout could still be found, but the Old Scout Ryes were seemingly disappearing from the market. One day on a trip to Mariano's, though, I was able to find a number of bottles of 7-Year Old Scout Rye on the shelf, and so I picked one up. I should have grabbed more, though, because I never saw it again since, and it truly was delicious.

So, when Smooth Ambler announced the new release of Old Scout Rye, even despite that it would be bottled at 4 and 5 years old, I was excited. It's young MGP product, but it's bottled as a single barrel product and at cask strength. And for the price of $55, it is very reasonable. I haven't seen a whole lot of fanfare around it, but I was excited when I was able to grab one off the shelf, and based on my experience with this particular bottle, I'm going to need to grab more!

The nose was full of delicious soft caramel and milk chocolate. It reminded me of a Caramello candy bar, and was so good!! It also had hints of the rye spice as well, with notes of wood and cinnamon. It even had a bit of a grainy note, giving that earthy rye bread flavor to balance it out. Interestingly, it did not immediately come across like the 95% rye mashbill that I'm used to from MGP. This seemed sweeter, like a lower rye-content rye.

The flavor followed suit. I got a lot of the caramel that I got on the nose, but I also got a sweet flavor that I likened to cream soda. Much like the nose, the flavor did not come across as a traditional rye, at least not a high-rye mashbill.  However, what it lacked in spice it more than made up for in flavor.

I got sweet notes of butterscotch candy, which seemed to work really well with the viscous mouthfeel of this whiskey. I also got marshmallow, which all combined to give sort of a note of rice crispy treats, but ones made with corn flakes instead.  It was kind of like those green wreaths with the cinnamon red hots that some people make at Christmas time.

It had a bit of that milk chocolate flavor from the nose, and even some cake frosting notes. Even the earthy notes were on the sweeter side, as I got a nutty note that reminded me of cashews. However, while the front end was all sweet, the finish was all spice. That's where the cinnamon notes came in, hitting the mouth after each swallow with a nice, spicy cinnamon red hots type note. It was almost like the spice was just waiting in the weeds to pounce. It's that great, spicy finish that had me diving right back into each next sip.

Ultimately, while it didn't have the age of those earlier releases, this was still released as a single barrel and at cask strength--two things going for it that my earlier experience with Old Scout Rye didn't have. Regardless of age, though, I absolutely loved this!! The balance of sweet and spice was perfect, and the flavors were incredible. Given that it's single barrel, and assuming they will keep putting this product out (I'm not sure whether it's intended to be limited or not), I'm going to be picking these up with some regularity.

Grade: A

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

- $60
- 104 Proof
- Kentucky

This is one of those whiskeys that I just never got around to trying, despite knowing that I should. After all, I do love me some Wild Turkey rye. I always have. And yet, despite it being a regular on the shelf and generally available, I never picked up a bottle of the Single Barrel Rye. I honestly have no explanation for it, and it seems silly that I've waited this long to grab a bottle.

So, grab one I did!

The nose on this one was a bit light, and I found I had to spend some time sniffing my glass just to pick up what notes I did. However, what was there was delicious. It had a light caramel note with a dusting of cinnamon. It also had a decent amount of vanilla bean as well as some sweet tobacco leaf. It was all sweet but earthy, and with just a touch of spice to keep it from being dull.

I hate using this word in my notes, and for that reason I almost never do. But, the first thing that I wrote down in my Notes app on my phone was "super smooth." I guess what I mean by that, though, is that despite this coming in at 104 proof, I got absolutely zero alcohol on the palate, allowing every other flavor to come through entirely. I realize that 104 isn't exceptionally high proof, but it's high enough that the alcohol burn would typically come through, masking the flavors even just a bit. Not so here.

Instead I got a mouth full of sweet but rich notes. I got a lot of brown sugar, along with the caramel and cinnamon that I was getting off the nose. However, it had a fatty richness to it, almost a buttery note that mixed with everything. It reminded me of the drizzle or topping on the coffee cake my grandma used to bake every morning when we visited--quite the positive memory (and yes, completely unrelatable, I know). The cinnamon provided just a touch of spice to offset that rich sweetness in a way that was almost perfect.

Perhaps a bit more relatable is that it reminded me of a Werther's caramel candy. It had that silkiness to the caramel flavor so it wasn't all cooked sugar. And it's that flavor that really seemed to stick around. Despite the proof, and perhaps owing to that buttery richness, this whiskey really coated my mouth and the back of my throat after each sip.  That coating left behind those buttery caramel notes in a way that was like eating a hard candy (bringing me right back to that Werther's note). 

Because I'm always buying whiskeys that I've never had before (and I've got tons of options), I typically don't have what people refer to as an every-day drinker. Given the availability of this whiskey, though, if I were to have an every-day drinker, this would probably be it. I loved everything about this whiskey, and I'm kicking myself for not having tried it sooner. And, as a side note, it feels good to give this high of a grade to a whiskey that is pretty widely available. 

Grade: A

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Blood Oath Pact No. 6 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Cognac Barrels


- $100
- 98.6 Proof
- Blend of 14, 8 and 7 years
- Pact No. 6
- Kentucky

While I, like most people, absolutely love it when my whiskey comes in a nice wooden box (said tongue firmly planted in my cheek), that alone was never enough to convince me to buy Blood Oath bourbon. It was all just too gimmicky for me -- fancy wooden box, proofed down to 98.6 degrees because, you know, blood, and finished in one manner or the other. That's all not to mention that reviews on previous batches have been pretty mixed, and for the price, I just wasn't willing to take a flier.

However, this year's Batch No. 6 actually seemed to get pretty solid reviews across the board, with some touting it as their best release yet. And, given that it was finished in Cognac barrels (a finish that I've found hard to resist), I finally pulled the trigger and got myself a bottle. I figured at the very least my son would be happy to get a cool new wooden box out of it.

The nose on this was rich and aromatic, hitting me with a healthy mix of leather and toffee. It also had some nutty and oaky notes to it as well, showing a bit of the age of the oldest of the whiskeys in the blend. There was a nice layer of vanilla to go along that rounded things out. It wasn't all rich dessert-like notes, though, as I also got some citrus and some dark notes, kind of like a mix of apricot and plum.

The palate really matched the nose, but interestingly the flavor that seemed to really stand out was a dried apricot note. Right up front I was hit with that bright yet somewhat subdued dried apricot which mixed well with the oak notes and with the bit of leather that I also got on the nose.  It had sweetness as well, with a distinct toffee note throughout, as well as a sweet granola note, kind of like those crunchy Nature Valley granola bars.

Not to belabor the point, but the dried apricot was really the star of the show here. It mixed so well with those richer, sweeter notes, and it provided balance to those earthier notes. It also seemed to play off the notes of plum and raisin that seemed to jump in the mix from time to time. 

The finish was long and lingering, with the notes of toffee and apricot sticking around for quite a while. A mild anise note came through on the finish as well, most notably on the last few pours. It was just enough to make it enjoyable and didn't cross that line of being a turn-off flavor for me. 

Consistent with the gimmick, I finished off the last two pours on Halloween night. It seemed apropos.  Gimmicks aside, though, this was an absolutely delicious whiskey, and I'm so glad I decided to go ahead and grab one. I thoroughly enjoyed every last drop!

Grade: A