Saturday, March 27, 2021

Old Pepper Distillery Binny's Private Selection Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey

- $50
- 110 Proof
- 4 yrs.
- Cask 1076
- Indiana

I have never had anything from Old Pepper Distillery before.  I've certainly seen it, and I've even had bottles in my hand, contemplating bringing one home from the store, only to put it back on the shelf and move on. Having now finished this bottle, I'm wondering if that was a mistake (spoiler alert: I really liked it!!).

Binny's recently got in a number of single barrel picks from Old Pepper, and of the ones available at my local shop, two were MGP-sourced and one was Kentucky-sourced. I figured at $50 for a nearly cask-strength MGP rye, the risk of a clunker was relatively low.  While it would have been fun to perhaps compare this cask against the other MGP pick that was there, that just wasn't in the cards, or more accurately, in my budget.

The nose was good, even if not overly remarkable. I immediately noticed a certain grassiness to it, or perhaps even an herbal quality. There was even a cracker quality to it. Nothing bold, more like saltines or those relatively plain wafer crackers. Behind all of this, though, was a layer of vanilla that added a touch of sweetness, even on the nose.

I went into this expecting to get some of those usual flavors I tend to get from MGP ryes -- a bunch of cinnamon, some spearmint and even maybe a little bit of dill. However, when I took my first sip, the first thing I noticed was all the vanilla that came out. It was certainly on the sweeter side, and it was kind of like vanilla bean ice cream, though not quite that sweet.

Almost immediately following that was a healthy dose of spearmint. In fact, I would have described this as a "vanilla bomb" if it weren't for all the spearmint behind it. Paired together, this whiskey really reminded me of one of my favorite seasonal treats that has once again gone away -- a shamrock shake. It sounds weird to associate Shamrock Shakes with whiskey, but that's where my mind when when I drank this, and I absolutely loved it!

Beyond that, there was a sweet butter cookie note to it, as well as some butterscotch. Again, it was no doubt on the sweeter side, but it never got too sweet with these notes. It also had a light herbal or even grassy note to it, not unlike what I was getting on the nose. On the finish, while it remained sweeter and the vanilla lingered, the cinnamon that I was expecting did finally make its way into the picture, along with a light black pepper spice as well. 

I loved everything about this whiskey! I was practically shoving glasses of this in friends' faces when they came over, telling them they had to try it. That was perhaps more due to the fact that I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this rye. This was one of those bottles that once I opened it, it was gone within no time, because it was all I wanted to drink. I'm not sure where the credit goes here, whether to Old Pepper Distillery, to MGP, or to the folks at Binny's that picked this out, but whoever deserves the credit did an amazing job with this barrel!

Grade: A+

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon finished in Armagnac, Sherry and Cognac Casks

- $150
- 127.02 Proof
- Batch No. 33
- Indiana

The Joseph Magnus line certainly intrigues me.  They seem to get at least decently aged MGP whiskey and finish them with the types of finishes that I generally like, often with sherry or cognac. From what I've had so far, I've enjoyed those deep, rich flavors that those finishes impart. However, I've always been turned off a bit by the steep price tag. After all, their standard offering along will set you back $100.

This past year the Cigar Blend, which I've never had before, hit one of my main stores two different times. It was offered to me the first time, and I was very much on the fence given the $150 price tag. Ultimately I passed, and then, of course, I kept coming across review after review telling me how good it was. Talk about instilling FOMO! So, when it became available again just a couple months later, I didn't consider passing on it a second time. I will say, I'm glad I made that decision!

The nose, not unexpectedly, was full of rich fruits. I was getting a healthy amount of dried apricots as well as baked pears with cinnamon. It also had a bit of a blackberry note to it as well. Layered under all those fruit notes was a nice, earthy nutty note, like almonds. Yes, this smelled fruity and nutty, and it was delicious.

The flavor on this bottle really seemed to develop and change over time, and the last 5-6 pours were incredible. The first half of the bottle wasn't so bad either. I was getting super rich notes of cinnamon baked pears, almond and walnut. It was like a biscotti with pear. It also had this nougat note to it that added some sweetness as well as almost a creaminess that I really enjoyed. 

I also got some light anise notes to add a bit of punch to the flavor. The only thing that was missing was the blackberry that I was getting on the nose. The alcohol was strong (as expected given the proof), but the flavors were even stronger, to the point that the kept the high alcohol at bay, making this very drinkable. 

Towards the end of the bottle, the Armagnac and Cognac finishes really seemed to take over. While it was still nutty with notes of baked pears, it was those nutty notes that took center stage, as I was getting a rich mix of almond and walnut. I also got some sweeter notes of fig and raisin. It was almost like a minced meat pie (the kind that's not actually made with any meat). It even had a bit of a grapey sweetness to it. 

I really liked the first half of this bottle, and I absolutely LOVED the last few pours. It's been a while since I had a bottle open up this much, and it was such an enjoyable experience. I'm certainly glad I went ahead and grabbed this one, and I won't be passing on a bottle of this again.

Grade: A

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Eagle Rare Warehouse Liquors Single Barrel Select "Wing" Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel No. 001

- $28 (375 ml)
- 90 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel No. 001
- Kentucky

I have to say, I really to like the 375 ml bottles. I'm constantly buying something new, very rarely picking something up I've had before. The smaller 375 bottles allow me to try something new, even something like a private pick of something I've had a thousand times before, but at less of a cost. It also allows me to finish a bottle that much faster to allow me to write my review on it. So, for me, the 375 has plenty of perks.

Now granted, the only reason I ended up with this 375 ml bottle is because by the time I got there, Warehouse had already sold out of all their regular-sized bottles. So this was more of a consolation price, but my love for the smaller bottle remains. It seems like it's been a while since I've gotten my hands on a Warehouse Eagle Rare pick, and I've loved every one I've had so far.  But now these things are gone from Warehouse's shelves as soon as they hit. So, I find myself cherishing the few I've managed to accumulate.

The nose was soft, somewhat light and hard to find. Perhaps I've been drinking too much of the cask strength bourbon lately, but I was a bit surprised. What was there was, as expected, pretty vanilla forward. It also had a light bitter cocoa powder note to it, as well as something almost tart, like candied cherries. I did get a nice black pepper spice off the nose as well.

As to flavor, I got those expected notes of caramel and vanilla and the back end tingle of a nice cinnamon spice--all of which I've always associated with Eagle Rare. However, this one hit a little different, which is what I typically hope to get in a store pick, as long as that "different" is a good different and not a gross different.

The candied cherry that I got off the nose really carried forward to the flavor profile. It paired really well with the strong toffee note that I was getting to provide a nice balance of flavor, while at the same time never getting too sweet. It was almost more on the dry end, actually, like it was teasing with the sweetness of toffee and cherry, but it just never quite got there.

Perhaps aiding in that effort, there was a distinct nutty quality, like unsalted peanuts and maybe a little bit of pecan, that added a bit of earthiness to the whiskey. This was most noticeable on the finish, where the pecan really came through along with a spicy cinnamon note.

This was, quite frankly, what I look for in a good store pick, something that takes the standard profile and adds to it or does something a bit different, but in a good way. This had all the traditional hallmarks of standard Eagle Rare, but there was something more to it that added to its complexity and uniqueness. I love standard Eagle Rare, and I liked this particular bottle even more. 

Grade: A-

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Jeppson's Binny's Barrel Select Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $32
- 124 Proof
- NAS (5.5 Years)
- Indiana

When CH Distillery in Chicago first released Jeppson's Bourbon, I, like so many others, was very hesitant to pick up a bottle for no other reason than that it looked like Malort. I'm not entirely certain what Malort is, but it's one of the worst things I've ever put in my mouth, and for some reason buying shots of the stuff is a bit of a Chicago tradition. And of course my simple mind told me if it looks like Malort, it must taste like Malort.

However, I did eventually pick up a bottle of the regular Jeppson's Bourbon, and I found it to be much better than expected.  So, when Binny's got in a round of cask strength picks, including barrels from Dickel and MGP, as well as a sherry finished, and only at $32, I figured I'd be a fool not to pick one up. Of course, I simply grabbed the oldest of the MGP picks (again, simple mind), figuring more age on an MGP product could only go right.

On the nose I got a lot of sweet, rich caramel along with a natural dark cherry flavor. It had light wood notes that was a bit unexpected given the age, along with a sort of unsweetened cocoa note which added some richness but also added some bitterness.

As to flavor, the first three notes I wrote down, not unlike the nose, were caramel, cherry and chocolate. It really came across as dessert-like, maybe even gourmet chocolate-like. It wasn't overly sweet by any stretch, but it was certainly that good, sweet MGP bourbon with just a bit of kick.

I know the word is somewhat forbidden, but this was very smooth, to the point that I would almost have described it as creamy. It had minimal burn and minimal harsh edges. The sweetness of the caramel was well rounded, and it was balanced out by the dark chocolate as well as a light smokiness that was unexpected but nonetheless very welcome.

That texture also provided for a very long finish. After each swallow my mouth and the back of my throat were coated in dark caramel notes. It was also on the finish where the spice really kicked in. While I would have preferred a bit more spice up front, this certainly made up for it. It was like a warm candy coating that was left behind, and it had my reaching very quickly for that next sip. 

All in all, I've had enough MGP bourbon at this point in my life to have a general understanding of what to expect in the flavor profile. I happen to enjoy that profile very much, and what I was most pleased about is how well this nailed that profile even at only five and a half years. I also enjoyed the slight twists of the prominent cherry note and the subtle smokiness to it.  Bottling this bourbon at cask strength was clearly the right move, and this was an absolute value at only $32!

Grade: B+

Sunday, March 7, 2021

New Riff Winter Whiskey Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $50
- 100 Proof
- Kentucky

I was unaware of this release coming out from New Riff towards the end of 2020. At least until I heard all about it from my local drug dealer (i.e. liquor store manager). He had recently made a trip down to New Riff for a private barrel pick, and he got to sample this Winter Whiskey. When he came back from the trip, he couldn't shut up about how damn good it was. And when he described it as a bourbon made with oats and chocolate malted barley, I was, at the very least, intrigued.

So, of course, I now had that FOMO planted firmly in my brain, and I let anyone that would listen to me know I really wanted to get my hands on a bottle. When that time did come, I didn't realize just how limited this release would actually be, as many stores only got a few bottles. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle, though, and I was even more surprised at the price! New Riff has always been awesome about keeping their limited or special releases moderately priced, and this was no exception. 

The first whiff was interesting. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was clear that this was something unique and different.  I was immediately hit with a nice roasty note, along with notes of chocolate and almond. It actually reminded me a bit of Hershey's chocolate almond bars, perhaps the dark chocolate ones. It had a sweetness to it, but it was a darker, richer sweetness, like molasses. I also got a sort of spiced, baked goods note, like gingerbread 

On the first sip I was hit with deep, rich malty notes. It definitely had that dark bread type flavor to it. However, many of those other notes from the nose were present as well. I got a lot of rich dark chocolate, along with those nutty notes, somewhere in between almonds and walnut.

What I think New Riff was going for here, though, and what I think they absolutely nailed, was the nice roasty flavor that I got that reminded me a lot of a porter. It was all chocolate and toasted walnut, all layered over a coffee note that wasn't super bitter but was more like a mocha (one made with good coffee). That roasted coffee and walnut note gave it just the slightest smokiness as well.

On the final pours, this drank very much like a coffee porter. It was rich and full of those roasted chocolate and coffee notes (yes, I've used the word "roasted" a lot here), pairing that rich sweetness with a light bitterness, yet all layered over a soft dark chocolate note. 

On the label it states, "This unique whiskey was inspired by our brewing background." I've had many other beer-related or beer-inspired whiskeys, and I've never found one that truly impressed me . . . until now. New Riff absolutely hit the mark here with what they were going for, and, even better, the end result was a unique and absolutely delicious whiskey!!  I hope they don't shelve this product and that at some point I can get my hands on some more

Grade: A

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Ezra Brooks 99 Proof Kentucky Straight Whiskey


- $23
- 99 Proof
- Kentucky

I've noted in past posts that lately Luxco has been putting out some very solid products. I'm pretty sure the last time I made note of that it was in the context of reviewing some Binny's private selections -- either Rebel or Ezra Brooks single barrels. I can't remember which, but both were great, so it doesn't really matter.  In fact, I noticed that just these past couple weeks Binny's got another round of those picks in.

So, when Luxco announced that it'd be offering a regularly available, moderately proofed low-cost bourbon to the Ezra Brooks line, I was pretty pumped. I liked the idea of having a 99 proof whiskey, from someone that's been making very good stuff lately, and only at $23!! I'm always on the lookout for those value picks, not just for myself, but as recommendations for others.

The nose had a pretty health dose of cinnamon spice to it, as well as an oaky bitterness. This is a non-age stated whiskey, but it had hints of just a little bit of age in this respect. Surprisingly, contrary to past experiences with Ezra Brooks products, I seemed to get very little sweetness on the nose.

However, that wasn't the case at all on the palate. This had quite a bit of sweetness, actually, and I was taken back a bit on my first sip given the nose. It was full of rich brown sugar and butter, and even a maple syrup note. However, it also had something bright and rich at the same time, kind of like black raspberry. There was certainly a layer of rich, dark fruit to it.

Most notably, though, I got this great cinnamon and biscuit note, and I swear it tasted like monkey bread. While talking about this experience on Twitter, I came to learn that not everyone knows what monkey bread is. For those people I feel sorry, and if you are reading this and happen to be one of those people, please click on this link and plan on making it for breakfast some time for you and your family:  I assure you it's worth a try!

In addition to that cinnamon, caramel and biscuit flavor that I absolutely loved, I also got some rich amaretto notes, adding a little bit of tang to the overall sweetness. It had a long, sweet finish with loads of caramel and vanilla and just the slightest bitter note. It reminded me a bit of a caramel latte.

All in all, this was absolutely on the sweeter side of whiskeys. However, the flavor profile worked so well with that sweetness. Perhaps it's the way it brought me back to fond memories of my childhood enjoying that sticky, gooey pull-apart caramel-cinnamon biscuit breakfast my mom would make, but I really loved this whiskey. It is certainly right at the top of my $25 and under whiskeys.

Grade: A