Saturday, January 30, 2021

Elijah Craig Small Batch Single Barrel Hand Selected for Illinois Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $30
- 94 Proof
- Barrel No. 6191649
- Warehouse: X
- Kentucky

Without fail, whenever I'm at a grocery store, any grocery store, I make it a point to do a quick scan of their whiskey selection. I make trips to my local Jewel at least twice a week if not more, and pretty much every time the whiskey selection remains the same. However, one time I notice that the Buffalo Trace that was there had a gold sticker on it, and sure enough it was a Jewel-Osco single barrel pick. And so, I learned, you just never know.

This time, I was doing a quick run to Meier for a few things, and as I made my obligatory turn down the liquor aisle, I saw a display of Elijah Craig. Nothing out of the ordinary, for sure. But, when I looked at the bottles on each shelf of this display, about half of them were labeled "Single Barrel Selected By: Hand Selected for Illinois."  Now, I have no idea what this actually means. It doesn't say it was selected by Meier. Perhaps by the distributor?  I really have no idea, and admittedly, I have done no research on the issue whatsoever. My research consisted entirely of product testing.

The nose had all the traditional characteristics you'd expect to find from Elijah Craig. I got toffee and a bit of vanilla. It had just a light touch of anise spice and even some dark chocolate notes. It also had some woody notes, kind of a light blend of walnut, oak and char. While it all blended well, the nose was fairly thin and somewhat hard to detect.

The flavor was perhaps even more traditional than the nose. I got heavy doses of caramel and vanilla. In fact, it was almost hard to pull other flavors out. While it was on the sweeter side, it was a bit more subdued than it might initially sound. 

That sweetness, luckily, was balanced by some of those other flavors that, while not prominent, were there enough to do the trick. I got a bit of orange peel that added not only some bright citrus notes to the whiskey, but also a touch of bitterness to help counter some of that sweetness.  I also got a touch of the oak and char that I got on the nose to again add another light component to sort of counter the sweetness.

The finish was very much like an old fashioned for me. It had the caramel notes of the bourbon along with the orange bitters. In this way the sweetness of the bourbon really worked. There was that light touch of char on the finish as well, adding another, almost light smoky layer to the finish.

All in all, this was a decent bottle, and I don't know that it's significantly better than standard Elijah Craig.  That said, it was fun to find the random single barrel selection in a place where I wouldn't have expected it, and I'll continue to make those obligatory detours down the liquor aisle of my grocery store, just in case . . .

Grade: B

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

1792 Binny's Single Barrel Select Batch #3 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $55
- 125 Proof
- Batch #3
- Kentucky

I've commented in the past at how I have a nearly impossible time not grabbing store picks of Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare or Elijah Craig whenever I come across them. While I wouldn't have necessarily lumped it in with those, looking back on my conduct, I guess I can say the same for 1792 Full Proof picks. I can't think of a time when I saw one on a shelf and thought, "Nah, I'm good."  While it's certainly pricier than those other three, the higher proof certainly makes up for at least a portion of that price difference.  

I guess the only real difference is that I have yet to find one that has really blown me away. Everyone I've had has been good. Probably better than the standard full proof. But I have had private picks of Eagle Rare and Knob Creek that are some of the best whiskeys I've ever tasted.  I have, in fact, had Elijah Craig and Buffalo Trace picks that were far superior when compared to their standard offerings. While I feel like I never can go wrong with a 1792 Full Proof pick, I just haven't yet had that experience with it.  Of course, I still grabbed this one hoping that would change.

On the nose I got a lot of rich, dark caramel. In fact, it even leaned a bit towards burnt sugar. It also had a sort of bitter earthiness to it, kind of like a walnut note. It also had a rich chocolate note, and with all of this together, it really smelled kind of like a turtle--those caramel and peanut chocolates. It smelled really good!

And when I took my first sip, that was exactly what I tasted. The very first thing I noted was turtle. It was all chocolate, caramel and either a pecan or a walnut note. It was actually kind of uncanny how closely the flavor matched the nose in this respect. 

It had a sort of a creamy quality to it, kind of like a nougat. In this respect it was like a richer but a less sweet Snickers bar. The walnut note seemed to hang around throughout, but at times I did get some white wine notes or, perhaps more accurately, a brandy note. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it was rich and fruity but not sweet.

The finish was great and had a lot going on. It had all the same flavors I got on the nose and on the front, including the chocolate, caramel and walnut. However, this is where the spice came in. I got a little bit of cinnamon and black pepper to add a bit of tingle on my tongue. I even got just a little bit of anise, which only added to the complexity and did not take away from any of the other flavors goin on here. But yet, the finish was still just that caramel and walnut combo that I really enjoyed.

As far as 1792 Full Proof picks go, this is honestly the best that I can remember having. Obviously recency bias plays a big part, but I can't think of another example that I enjoyed quite this much. It had its flavor profile and it did that profile very well. Well-worth the "gamble" in picking this off the shelf when I saw it.  Guess I still won't hesitate the next time I see one.

Grade: A-

Monday, January 25, 2021

Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Whiskey (2018)

- $70
- 100 Proof
- Kentucky

I’m not going to lie, Rock Hill Farms is one of my all-time favorite whiskeys. In fact, I make it a point to always have one in reserve before I open a new bottle of it. So, if you're here looking for an unbiased, objective review of this whiskey, let me tell you up front that that is not what this is--not that any whiskey reviews are unbiased or objective.

That said, given that these are single barrels, and given their ever increasingly limited availability, I figured since I finished this bottle off, I might as well go ahead and give it another review and jot down my notes as to what I smelled and tasted this time around. Who knows, maybe I noticed something different or better, or even worse this time around. But, just as expected, I sure did enjoy this bottle and now I will once again be on the hunt for my back-up bottle before I can open the next.

The nose was full of traditional aromas of caramel and brown sugar, with a nice, warming cinnamon spice to it. I also got some candied orange, with that caramelized citrus note that would really lend itself to a delicious Old Fashioned. In fact, I even got a bit of a Luxardo cherry note to sort of round things out. IT really smelled delicious!

The flavor really followed suit, and those Old Fashioned notes seemed to be sort of a running theme with this bottle. I found those same candied orange and dark cherry notes to be fairly prominent. But, keeping it from becoming too sweet, it also had that cinnamon spice to provide some nice balance.

While there's no age statement, it certainly spent a decent amount of time in the barrel, as the oak notes were noticeable, though far from overtaking all the other delicious flavors. Rather, it provided the right amount of tannic bitterness to, again, provide balance with all the other flavors.

The finish, however, seemed to lean more to the sweeter side. I got a nice, long finish with lingering notes of toffee and dark chocolate. A bit of the drying wood notes also made their way through on the finish and may have been the reason I just kept going right back in for that next sip. There was also just a bit of cinnamon spice on the finish as well, noticeably on the tip of my tongue.

As I said, I've always been a big fan of this whiskey, and the 2018 bottling certainly did nothing to change that. The profile on this whiskey is right in my wheelhouse, and I only wish it were more readily available, though I see no reason to believe that's going to change any time soon. Luckily I've got a 2020 version bunkered away, just in case the mood hits me.

Grade: A

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Michter's 10 Year Single Barrel Straight Rye (2020)

- $160
- 92 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel No. 20E905
- Kentucky

I remember four years ago wanting so bad to find a bottle of this. It was one that I had, at that time, resigned myself to the fact that I'd likely never get the chance to buy one at the store. As luck would have it, though, the one and only time I've ever participated in those online raffles using Powerball, my number managed to hit and this was one of the bottles that I was able to land as a result.

I also remember being somewhat underwhelmed. That was probably the first time that I ever really went after a particular bottle.  Quite frankly, it was the first hard-to-find bottle that I really wanted to get my hands on. And I distinctly remember trying it for the first time and realizing that it just didn't live up to the hype.  Like I said, that was four years ago, and since then I've had various Michter's rye products that I've loved. So, when the opportunity once again presented itself, I decided to give it another go.  And I'm so glad I did!

The nose was full of soft but sweet notes of brown sugar and salted caramel. It also had a fairly strong vanilla note as well, making it smell very dessert-like. At times I even got a maple syrup note and was reminded of pancakes. However, it also had a bit of that pine note letting me know that it was still a rye, despite the lack of spice.

Much like the nose, the flavor was all soft and sweet up front. This does rye certainly does not fall in the spicy rye category, as I was getting a lot of the same notes I got on the nose. It was a confectionary blend of caramel, brown sugar and butter, almost like homemade candies I used to get at my grandmother's house near the holidays. At times I was even getting a sweet vanilla note, like vanilla icing.

It did have a touch of wood to it as well, but it wasn't quite pine. It was more of a sawdust flavor, like the taste of the air when you use a table saw. Not really bitter and not piney, but definitely woody.

The finish was probably my favorite part. There I got more of the traditional rye notes, with cinnamon and brown sugar taking center stage. There was a slight cherry flavor as well as a maple syrup that lingered long after each pour, and in the end I found myself being reminded of spice cake. This finish was dessert-like and spicy at the same time, and I loved it!

While I was underwhelmed the last time, that was not the case this time. This was a fantastic bottle and I already miss it.

Grade: A

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Mitchell & Son Red Spot 15 Year Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey


- $150
- 92 Proof
- 15 Years
- Ireland

My Irish whiskey purchases are few and far between. I'm apparently too busy spending all my money on bourbons and ryes (not that I'm apologizing for it). However, when Red Spot was released in the United States, I remember hearing Mark Gillespie review this bottle on WhiskeyCast podcast. While it's been some time, I'm pretty sure he gave it a rating of 96 (I'm sure I could verify this . . . but nah).  Considering that's the highest score I've ever heard him give, I kept it on my radar to look out for a bottle if I ever got the chance. 

Then, when it finally hit the United States, I had read that the majority of the bottles were allocated to Eastern states, with a limited amount to actually hit Illinois. So when I saw it in my local store's case, I immediately grabbed one for myself. This is a 15 year Irish whiskey, the older brother of the popular Green Spot and Yellow Spot whiskeys, and this one was triple cask finished, having been finished in a combination of bourbon casks, Spanish sherry butts and Marsala wine casks. There was a lot going on here and I was excited to pop the cork as soon as I got home.

The nose is, without question, very fruity. I immediately got hit with aromas of raspberry and pears. I also got sweet honey notes, as well as some delicate floral notes.  To balance all of this out, it had a nice black pepper spice on the nose as well. It had a lot going on, but it all worked really well together.

Much like the nose, the palate on this one was very fruit forward. It was a bit sweeter, though, like bright red raspberry along with a vanilla cream. It at times seemed to have a fruit punch note to it. Even some citrus notes seemed to come through from time to time, specifically bright orange notes.

There was also a yeasty, bread-like flavor to it, and it reminded me of fresh bakery bread. Like a nice, fresh loaf of French bread, but with a touch of honey. There was also a bit of a woody note to it that added a bit of a dry, bitter quality.

The mouthfeel was nice and oily, and with the sweet fruit notes and the slight bit of honey, provided for a lip-smacking finish. It seemed all the sweet notes were what stuck around, with raspberry and honey absolutely coating my mouth and not wanting to go away.

This was one of those bottles that I didn't want to finish. When I got to about four inches left in the bottle, it sat on my shelf for quite some time before I went back to it, because I knew I'd miss it once it was gone. This was an absolutely delicious bottle of whiskey, and even at the price, I think I wouldn't hesitate to grab another bottle if afforded the opportunity.

Grade: A

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Widow Jane Aged 10 Years Blend of Straight Bourbons

- $35 (375 ml)
- 91 Proof
- 10 Years
- Batch #233
- Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana

Lately I feel like I've been buying nothing but limited releases and store picks. I'm not complaining at all about that. It's great to have access to the whiskey I've been buying. But, I also feel like it's an impediment to actually trying new things. While I can't pass up a Russel's Reserve or Buffalo Trace store pick, and for good reason, I also don't then end up trying that new bottle I'm seeing on the shelf. I try to be more conscious of that, but at the same time, I'm not working with limitless resources here.

Luckily, though, occasionally my wife will randomly buy me new whiskeys, and because she wants to get me something I haven't had before, she often grabs something I likely wouldn't have gone for. In this instance, she grabbed a 2-pack of 375 ml bottles from Widow Jane, which included a rye whiskey aged in oak and apple wood, and this 10 year blended bourbon.  I've previously had the 10-year straight bourbon, but that was four years ago, and a much different whiskey than this one.

The nose was that of a very traditional bourbon, with aromas of oak and cinnamon and a sweet toffee note. It smelled like it had some age on it, as not only did I get a bit of oak but I also got a bit of a smoky char note to it. I even got a bit of chocolate that really seemed to complement everything else going on. Given the sources for this blend -- Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee -- I guess I really shouldn't have expected anything strange to come from this bottle.

When I took my first sip, I immediately noticed cinnamon and dark chocolate. The spice from the cinnamon, along with a touch of sweetness, hit the tip of my tongue immediately followed by the light bitterness of dark chocolate. 

Once I got past that spicy cinnamon and bitter dark chocolate, though, I got a lot of oak and vanilla. It wasn't over-oaked or overly bitter. In fact, that note seemed to carry forward that same dark chocolate bitterness. And it was all balanced by a rich vanilla note, like vanilla bean.

Other notes were noticeable here and there. At times I got a distinct peanut flavor, and even some dark notes from time to time. When paired with the sweetness from the vanilla and chocolate notes, it was almost like a toned down port wine note that I was getting.

All in all, this was rich and sweet and tasty. At $70 for a full sized bottle and only 91 proof, I don't know that I'm necessarily reaching for it. But, it was nonetheless a very good whiskey and I found that this little bottle just didn't stand a chance. It was gone within a week of opening.

Grade: B

Friday, January 15, 2021

Knob Creek Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 13 years, 11 months


- $40
- 120 Proof
- 13 years, 11 months
- Kentucky

For a while it seemed like well-aged store picks of Knob Creek were flooding into stores. Not too long ago Binny's got a waive of 13-15 year Knob Creek picks, and seemingly only months later they got a second wave.  I grabbed a couple bottles from each wave, primarily of some of the oldest stuff. But, unfortunately, I only have one bottle left after finishing this one off. 

Whether or not we see much more 12+ year Knob Creek store picks remains to be seen, but the outlook is doubtful. After all, Jim Beam has figured out that they can package a watered down version of the same product and sell it as a 12 year bourbon for an even higher price, or, better yet, a 15 year bourbon marked at a premium. So, I'm sure I'll be hesitant to crack open that last bottle that I've got squirreled away. But, if it's anywhere near as good as this bottle was, perhaps that time will come sooner than I realize. 

The nose was surprisingly softer than expected.  My experience with other Knob Creek picks is that they've been pretty punchy and bold. Not so with this one. Rather, it came across like buttery maple syrup. It did have a decent amount of oak to it, and it also had that Jim Beam nutty quality, kind of like pecans. The smell reminded me in a way of pecan pie.

The flavor, though, was heavy on the toffee.  It was all dark, rich caramel notes, with a touch of bitter wood notes to help balance it out. I did get some of the maple syrup that I had gotten on the nose, and at times I swear I was tasting pancakes with maple syrup.

It had some other, more earthy notes going on as well. I got a hint of rye bread that I thought was interesting. It also had a definite peanut and amaretto thing going on. They worked really well with the toffee notes, though, to provide this sweet but rich and almost tangy flavor. 

This had a lot of heat to it, but it seemed to fade quickly on the tongue to allow all these flavors to come through. And by the finish, I was getting very little alcohol burn, which allowed flavors of orange peel and maple syrup to remain behind on what was a very long finish. I had a smoked maple old fashioned once, and the finish on this bourbon reminded me of that. 

This is a bourbon that wanted to be sweet, but the age, the robustness of it, as well as the more earthy tones wouldn't allow it to be a "sweet" whiskey. While it had its sweet components, that sweetness was well balanced. This bourbon had a ton of flavor, and I actually surprised myself with how quickly I finished this bottle. Once I opened it I had a hard time picking anything else to drink.

Grade: A

Monday, January 11, 2021

Shenk's Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey - 2020

- $90
- 91.2 Proof
- Batch No. 20G1520
- Kentucky

It wasn't that long ago that I finished off and ultimately reviewed my 2019 bottle of Shenk's.  In fact, I had a decent amount still in my bottle when I got the opportunity to purchase this 2020 bottle of Shenk's. Of course, I couldn't pass up grabbing this year's as well, and, quite frankly, it's what gave me the motivation to finally finish off the previous year's bottle.

While I regret not doing a side-by-side when I had the chance, I do feel like I opened this one pretty much immediately after finishing the last one off. So the comparisons were at least a little fresh, even if not done side-by-side. Regardless of comparisons, though, this and the Bomberger's from Michter's have certainly become no-brainers as far as grabbing a bottle when the opportunity presents itself.  And this particular bottle only further supported that notion.

The nose was dominated by notes of brown sugar and cinnamon. It also had a bit of a buttery note, along with a cracker note, the combination of which reminded me of Ritz crackers. Interesting, and certainly not unwelcome.  There were also light wood notes that provided a bit of bitterness, and at times that note even leaned a little bit towards orange peel. 

That same cinnamon and brown sugar from the nose, not surprisingly, also seemed to dominate the palate, at least on the front end. The tip of my tongue was immediately hit with that cinnamon spice along with the sweetness that had kind of a pastry quality, but with a little more cinnamon heat. 

It certainly had a lot more going on. Early on in this bottle I was getting distinct amaretto notes that I absolutely loved, particularly with the brown sugar. As I made my way through the bottle, that amaretto turned a bit towards an anise note. Not a heavy anise note, the likes of which would turn me off, but rather a light note that also worked well with the brown sugar. 

Surprisingly, I got a bit of a white bread note, like a sweeter, not so yeasty bread note. That seemed to pair with soft caramel note to create almost like a caramel iced donut, but not so cloyingly sweet. It even had a bit of butterscotch to it.  The combination was a bit hard to put my thumb on, but whatever it was it was delicious!

While the flavors I was getting seemed to bounce around a bit as I made my way through this bottle, the one thing that remained consistent was that it was always delicious. In fact, I found this to be significantly better than the 2019 bottle, which is good considering it came with a significantly greater price tag!  Hopefully the price increases stop there, because I want to continue trying to find one of these as they are released.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

One Eight Distilling Untitled Whiskey No. 13


- $80
- 106 Proof
- 10 Years
- Batch 1
- Washington D.C.

I'll admit that I knew very little about One Eight Distilling out of Washington D.C. before purchasing this bottle. In fact, I know very little about them now. But I took notice when I saw their Untitled Whiskey Nos. 11 and 13 suddenly appearing on my local liquor store shelves. The bottle and label designs are simple, and the finishes sounded great. But that price for an unknown turned me away.

Then I started not only seeing their whiskeys everywhere on Facebook, including single barrel picks that people were going nuts for. So I reconsidered, and I ultimately broke down and bought a bottle of Untitled No. 13. It was the neck label that sold me on this particular one: 

"For Untitled Whiskey No. 13, we rested 10-year old high rye bourbon in a combination of Cognac, Spanish brandy and Oloroso, Amontillado and Pedro Ximenez sherries."  

It certainly had a lot going on, and the description reminded me a lot of the Jos. Magnus products. But, this one was not only age-stated at a healthy 10 years, but it was a bit cheaper than the Magnus blends. So I gave it a shot.

The nose on this thing was crazy full and rich. I got a healthy amount of dark cherry and chocolate, and even some blackberry. It had a brandy-like richness of baked pear and apple as well. It also had a rich read wine note, like a pinot noir. It did have a bit of a brightness to it, kind of like raspberry, but those dark, rich fruit notes really dominated here. 

Of course the flavor followed suit. The wine barrel finish seemed to dominate immediately up front, as I got a lot of the full-bodied red wine flavors. I got a lot of that blackberry and dark cherry as well. It didn't come across as super sweet or anything, just full of flavor.

Those rich (I'm using that word a lot here, I realize), dark fruit notes were accompanied by dark chocolate and walnut notes. I also got some notes of raisin and plum that worked really well with everything else going on. There was also a bit of brown sugar to add just a bit of sweetness.

On the finish it had just a bit of tanginess to it. I liked it to amaretto liqueur. It's hard to put my finger on, but there was just something  lightly bitter while at the same time sweet that lingered on my tongue. It also left behind those notes of dark chocolate and walnut, giving it a very dessert-like finish.

What I didn't get, however, was the high-rye bourbon notes that I wanted. I didn't find any of that spice from the rye content that I was expecting. I also didn't get many of the more traditional bourbon notes, like caramel and vanilla. Unfortunately, while I bought the bottle in part because it started with a 10-year high rye bourbon, the bourbon ended up being almost completely masked by everything else going on. While it was still delicious, I wanted the bourbon itself to take more of a lead role here.

Grade: B

Monday, January 4, 2021

High West Double Rye! Binny's Barrel Select Cognac Finished Blended Rye Whiskey

- $45
- 99.4 Proof
- Barrel #17752
- Finished 8 mos.
- Utah

Binny's recently got another round of barrel select finished whiskeys from High West. In fact, I got wind of them a bit early, and when I went to my local store, they hadn't even unpacked them yet. The next day I was that guy, the one that stalked the spirits manager asking him when he was going to open those cases. Luckily for me, he indulged me and told me that if I waited around fifteen minutes or so, he'd stock those bottles next.

So, of course, I waited and picked the ones I wanted as they were pulled out of their boxes, grabbing a Calvados finished American Prairie Bourbon and this Cognac Finished Double Rye!  I wasn't in any position to buy them all, though I wanted to, so I left the two wine finished picks behind. I hope that wasn't a mistake. That said, I was pretty excited to dive right into this Cognac finished rye, as I've loved just about every other bottle I've had that was finished in Cognac barrels.

The nose on this was incredible, like a rich dessert! I got a lot of baked pear and baked cinnamon apple. It had that warm, inviting nose with just a bit of spice. I was also getting some Luxardo cherry. These fruit-forward notes were balanced out by notes of toffee and oak. The nose was super rich, and I could not stop sniffing my glass.

I found the flavor to be very interesting and different. I got the baked pear from the nose, but I also got some peach coming through. It reminded me of a fresh peach cobbler. The cinnamon and toffee from the nose were also there to complement these flavors. Even the Luxardo cherry that I was getting from the nose made its way across my tongue, though that flavor was more predominant in the finish.

The richness from the nose certainly came through on the palate as well. It had that heavy sweetness, and it reminded me of brown sugar and butter. I even got a healthy amount of molasses. In fact, between that molasses and the rich fruit notes, it reminded me a lot of oatmeal raisin cookies (which I would love if it weren't for their texture).

This really had everything I was expecting to get out of it. The Cognac finish really shined, and if I had one criticism, it would be that it seemed to overwhelm the rye notes. That said, even if that is the case, what was there was delicious, and I found myself dipping right back to that bottle time after time until it was gone in relatively short order.

Grade: B+