Friday, July 16, 2021

Elijah Craig 18-Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 2020

- $150
- 90 Proof
- 18 Years
- Barrel No. 5244
- Kentucky

I've said it before, but I love Elijah Craig 18. There's no question that due to the age, it imparts a certain amount of oakiness into the bourbon. It can be a bit try, sometimes a bit tannic and even a little bitter. But, what I've always loved about Elijah Craig 18 is the way it handles that oak, making it a part of the flavor profile but never allowing it to take over. It's for this reason that this has become one of my favorite whiskeys.

Sometimes I'm in the mood for something sweet, which often leads me to a bourbon, or even a wheated bourbon in particular. Sometimes I'm in the mood for spice, leading me to rye, or smokiness, leading me to my Scotch collection. And, sometimes I'm in the mood for a little bit of oak. That's why I always have at least one bottle of Elijah Craig 18 on hand, to scratch that itch whenever it appears. I don't make my way through these bottles quickly, as I don't get that itch that often, but I certainly do find my way to the bottom of the bottle eventually.

On the nose, I did notice those oak tannins right away. However, it came across sweeter than expected, sweeter than previous bottles I've had. It had a sort of maple syrup and graham cracker quality to it. It reminded me of pecan pie, but toned down on the sweetness.  It also had a bit of cinnamon spice to it, and all of this played really well with the tannins, which really provided more of that pecan nuttiness to the pecan pie than anything.

While the oak was immediately noticeable on the nose, that wasn't necessarily the case on the palate.  In fact, the first thing I noticed when I took my first sip was a delicious milk chocolate note. That was accompanied by a light, nutty bitterness on the tip of my tongue, but that seemed to go away fairly quickly.

In addition to that creamy milk chocolate note, some of the more traditional bourbon notes that I love made their way forward. I got a smooth and rich toffee note, certainly darker and richer than caramel, but with that same softness. It also had a light burnt sugar note that I really enjoyed. 

I even got some fruit notes on the flavor as well, and while I couldn't immediately put my thumb on it, I think I ultimately concluded it was a sort of a candied cherry note that worked perfectly with everything else. In fact, that candied cherry note stuck around on the finish as well, along with some spicy cinnamon and a healthy amount of that milk chocolate that I was getting up front. It was only on the finish that the tannins really re-emerged, but that bitterness seemed to complement everything else.

This is a completely biased review (as they all are, which is why whiskey reviews are stupid). I knew going in I was going to love this, because I've loved every bottle of Elijah Craig 18 I've ever had. Sure, the price is steep, but I'm still grabbing these every chance I get.

Grade: A

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Doc Swinson's Alter Ego Triple Cask Straight Bourbon Finished in Sherry & Cognac Casks

- $65
- 95.8 Proof
- Release No. 21-004
- Indiana/Washington

This is another one of those brands that keeps popping up in my Facebook feed--at least it did for a while.  I'm honestly not sure exactly which bottles were garnering all the attention a short while back, but what I noticed was that while I was seeing this Doc Swinson's brand in my Facebook feed, I wasn't seeing it anywhere on my stores' shelves . . . until one day I did. Apparently I just had to be patient.

I had the choice of this Sherry and Cognac finished bourbon or a rum finished rye. Given that I have found very few rum finished whiskeys I've actually enjoyed, it really was an easy choice for me. Plus, this one sounded really good! It's MGP bourbon (though the age is unknown) that was then finished in Oloroso Sherry casks, Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks and Cognac casks. I have no idea how long, but either way, this resulting blend of those three finishes was bound to, at the very least, pack a lot of flavor.

The nose was full of rich jammy notes of raspberry and strawberry, certainly the result of the two Sherry cask finishes. There was also something rich to it, kind of like a fig note. What I loved, though, was that the bourbon itself wasn't completely buried by the finishing, allowing a great vanilla bean note to come through, as well as a sweet butterscotch note.

As to flavor, as expected, this was a very fruit-forward bourbon. But, I got the influence from both the sherry and the Cognac barrels. Right away I got a bright and sweet raspberry note, and right along side that was a sort of plum and baked pear note, likely from the Cognac influence. All of this seemed to be blended with a rich vanilla undercurrent that all worked very well together.

Rich is really the common theme with this whiskey. On top of those fruit and vanilla notes, there was a  light woodiness to it--not tannic, but rather just the oak flavor. There were also some rich chocolate notes that met well with the raspberry and vanilla.

The finish really highlighted those chocolate notes, which were rich and not overly sweet. There was also a sort of amaretto note to it, something tangy like that to make it a bit interesting. I also noticed the wine notes really coming through, kind of like the aftertaste of an oaked Chardonnay, and this is where the tannins came in.  

I really loved everything about this whiskey, except for that finish. Even that finish had promise with the chocolate and amaretto, but the lingering wine note was a bit off-putting. It literally left a bad taste in my mouth. If it weren't for that, I'd have given this much higher marks.

Grade: B

Friday, July 9, 2021

Preservation Distillery Rare Perfection 14 Year Canadian Whiskey

- $180
- 100.7 Proof
- 14 Years
- Lot #02
- Canada

When Preservation Distillery first released their Rare Perfection and Old St. Nick lines, apparently reviving a couple of older brands, I frequently saw these bottles in my various whiskey-related Facebook groups. I knew nothing about them, but I certainly was intrigued by the cool looking, antique style labeling, not to mention the age statements and the higher proof. I hadn't been seeing any of these in the stores by me, so when I got the chance to buy this and the 15 year at essentially retail, perhaps even less based on what they're being sold for now, I went ahead and pulled the trigger.  Of course now I see them sitting on shelves everywhere, not being bought and just taking up space. 

What I didn't know until these bottles arrived, though, and the reason that these are now just sitting, was that these are Canadian whiskey. Admittedly, I did little to no research prior to purchasing these, which is on me. I do, however, find it interesting that they deliberately left off the word "Canadian" from the front label, only indicating as such in small type on the back. I was immediately disappointed and had a bit of buyer's remorse, but, you live and learn. How bad could it be, though?

The nose on this was actually really good. I got a lot of brown sugar and a light caramel right up front. It also had this sweet cream note to it that reminded me of vanilla ice cream. There was a bready note as well, perhaps like a pie crust. It had all the makings of a good dessert.

As to flavor, though, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the brown sugar flavor. It was easily the most dominant flavor, and any other notes I was getting were slight in comparison. It dominated from the first sip through the finish. That's a lot of brown sugar. And, on top of that, it had a certain artificial flavoring quality to it that I just wasn't a fan of. 

Other notes were there, but, like I said, they were very light in comparison. I did get notes of root beer and at time butterscotch. I even got that pie crust note that I was noticing on the nose. There was even a bit of a molasses note to it, something darker and richer than just that artificial brown sugar. 

However, make no mistake about it, this came across as sweet.  Very sweet.  Overly sweet. And I can handle a brown sugar sweetness, but when it's an artificial sweetness and it's as sweet as this, it just becomes too much. I don't know if artificial brown sugar is a thing, but if it is, this tastes like it had some added directly to the barrel. 

I've had plenty of Canadian whiskeys that leaned toward the brown sugar note, but none that did so quite like this one did. I do have the 15 year, and I will eventually get around to opening that one in hopes for a better experience, but it may take me a while to get around to that.

Grade: C-

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $22
- 90 Proof
- Kentucky

It's amazing to me whenever I consider how long I've been drinking whiskey, and in particular bourbon, and the fact that I make it a point to constantly try new bottles if only for the sake of content, and to realize just how many "standards" I still haven't tried. I even keep a running list in my phone of whiskeys that I simply need to get around to trying at some point, and I'm terrible at actually checking those bottles off.

This is one of those bottles, and apparently it took not only a redesign of the bottle to finally make me pick one up, but also a sale at Jewel. With so many good options with higher proofs, stated ages, fancy finishes, etc., I just don't find myself grabbing that $20, 90 proof bourbon off the bottom shelves. And I'm very self-aware that I'm doing myself a disservice, and this bottle definitely reminded me of that.

The nose had those traditional bourbon notes that we all know and love, with caramel and vanilla taking the forefront. It also had a bit of char to it, though, giving it a bit of a burnt sugar note. It didn't go entirely sweet, though, as there was also something earthy to it, like leather. 

What I enjoyed about the flavor is what I enjoyed about the nose. This is just a good, solid, traditional bourbon. While it did have a watery texture, that didn't seem to limit the flavor. I got the rich caramel notes, along with a fairly decent amount of spice. It had a peppery and cinnamon spice that seemed to balance out the sweetness perfectly.

On top of that, there was a nutty or woody quality that I really enjoyed. It was on the slightly sweeter end, perhaps like walnut. From time to time I also got a maraschino cherry note that I absolutely loved, and I wished was a bit more consistent. The finish didn't last very long, but nonetheless carried with it that caramel and black pepper spice, and even though short-lived, it was bold and delicious and did have me going back for more.

Overall, this is a winner for a bottom shelf whiskey. If someone asked me to give them a classic example of what Kentucky bourbon is, this would be a great option. I enjoyed it neat, and it stood up fairly well in an old fashioned. 

Grade: B

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Still 630 Rally Point Straight Rye Whiskey

- $30
- 90 Proof
- Batch No. 75
- Missouri

This bottle was one of two that I grabbed a few months back when I was in St. Louis for my daughter's hockey tournament. I wanted to make it a point to grab a bottle or two that I can't normally find in Illinois, and it's usually pretty easy to just go with a small, local craft distiller--in this case Still 630. I also typically go with ryes because most craft whiskey is on the younger end, and rye tends to hold up well at a young age.

This bottle, however, grabbed my attention for two reasons. First was the very reasonable price of $30. That in itself makes it very easy to pull this bottle off the shelf. Second was the word "straight" on the label and the lack of an age statement anywhere else, indicating that this rye was at least four years old. Considering all the other craft whiskeys I was looking at were only two years or less, it was an easy decision to go with the one that had a bit more time in the barrel.

The nose was interesting. I got a lot of earthy and nutty notes. I picked up a mix of peanuts and pecans along with a brown sugar note, but more the flavor than the sweetness. There was also a light woodiness to it as well--not bitter or anything, just a noticeable wood note. The rye spice was certainly noticeable as well, as I got decent amounts of cinnamon and pine. 

When I took a sip, the first thing I noticed was the very watery texture. It was, perhaps as a result, fairly soft in flavor. Everything just seemed a bit muted, but what was there was good. The most prominent flavors were brown sugar and vanilla. It had a very cookie-like quality in that respect.

It did, however, have a dill note as well as a touch of spearmint, making you know that this was a rye. Those flavors layered over the vanilla that was present throughout worked pretty well.  Unfortunately, these notes were also fairly muted and soft. 

My first impressions were that this rye was screaming for more spice. It didn't seem to have any of the typical rye characteristics. However, as I worked my way through this bottle, that spice seemed to actually develop a bit, giving me that cinnamon, along with light notes of anise and even ginger. These spicier notes were most prevalent on the finish. While not long-lived, the finish did provide a little bit of complexity in that respect. 

For $30, this was absolutely worth picking up to try something from a small craft distillery local to the St. Louis area. They are doing a lot of things right, and I'd love to see what more they can do with this rye.

Grade: B-

Friday, July 2, 2021

Sazerac Rye Warehouse Liquors Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Rye

- $33
- 90 Proof
- Barrel No. 003
- Kentucky

I love it when long-standing products suddenly get made available for a private barrel program. Over the past couple years we've seen a number of Buffalo Trace products in particular get added to their private barrel program, including Stagg Jr., E.H. Taylor, and, of course, Sazerac Rye. I tend to favor ryes, and as such, I do enjoy regular Sazerac Rye. However, it has never really been among my favorites in the category.

That said, when I learned that it was going to be part of the single barrel program, I knew I had to at least try it. So, when I made a trip to Warehouse Liquors simply to see what was in, and I saw one of these on the shelf, I was genuinely excited to finally get to try it. And the price is certainly hard to beat. I'm always a fan of purchases where the potential for buyer's remorse is basically nill.

The nose was great, with a lot of those qualities I love in rye. I got spicy graham cracker, like a cinnamon graham cracker but without the sugary sweetness. It had a light woodiness to it, kind of like wood shavings. It even had a light amount of pine. But, even on the last few pours, when I'd go to nose my glass, the predominant note was that cinnamon graham cracker.

The flavor, however, was certainly on the sweeter side. Given the nose, I was actually surprised that it leaned away from the graham cracker and cinnamon and seemed to take on more of a butterscotch note. Don't get me wrong, it was good, just a bit unexpected.

It was watery and thin in texture, which I guess was expected. But, that led to a relatively short-lived finished. What was there was a mix of cinnamon and black pepper spice, and a bit of that graham cracker note did come through on the finish. These notes were all fleeting, though, and only the black pepper note seemed to really have any staying power.

As I got down to the last few pours, I did pick up some other notes that finally added a bit of complexity, as notes of cherry started to come through, and those mixed with the spice I was getting reminded me a bit of Dr. Pepper.

All in all, for a Sazerac Rye, I thought this was an very good barrel. It was certainly better than standard Sazerac Rye, which, I guess when it comes to store picks, is all you can really hope for.  I have since picked up a different Sazerac Rye store pick, and I'm looking forward to trying that one as well. For the price, it's easy to keep giving these a try!

Grade: B

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Thomas S. Moore Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Port Casks

- $70
- 98.9 Proof
- Kentucky

It seems like forever ago that Barton 1792 announced its new line of finished bourbons -- the Thomas S. Moore line. That line-up includes a Chardonnay finished bourbon, a Cabernet finished bourbon, and, of course, this Port cask finished bourbon. Admittedly, I wasn't all that jazzed or hyped about the Chardonnay or Cabernet finished bourbons. Perhaps the Cabernet is fine, and I'd still give it a go. The idea of the Chardonnay finish, though, does not appeal to me. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm not going to go out of my way to find out.

However, the Port finish had me intrigued. After all, the last time that Barton did a port finish, it was their 1792 Port Finish, and it was amazing!! In fact, it's one of my all-time favorite whiskeys, and it makes me sad whenever I see a bottle going for crazy amounts on the secondary market, because it just reminds me of how unlikely I am to get my hands on a bottle again. But then this Thomas S. Moore offering came along, and it gave me hope that I might find at lease a Costco version to scratch that itch.

Not unexpectedly, on the nose I got a lot of soft, rich fruit notes. It had a jammy aroma, full of raspberry and plum. There was a sort of milk chocolate layer underneath everything as well, adding to the richness of it all. It smelled sweet, but not cloyingly so, perhaps offset a bit by the light tannic note that I got.

On my first sip I knew immediately I had something delicious here. Perhaps not as good as the 1792 Port finish, but then again, perhaps it was given how much time has passed since I last had it. The flavors were soft and velvety, with currants and black raspberry leading the charge. Rather than chocolate, those rich fruit notes were layered over a delicious vanilla bean flavor. It was almost like a decadent dessert whiskey, yet it never got to be overly sweet.

The finish was where the chocolate from the nose really came through. This bourbon had a nice, oily texture that provided for a nice long finish that coated my mouth in milk chocolate, as well as notes of raspberry and even a bit of almond. It had just a touch of that amaretto liqueur note to it. 

I even found myself comparing this to an Angel's Envy single barrel pick, and this stood out well above that bottle. This bourbon just had a softer, and yet more robust and flavorful palate, one which indicated that it was finished in those Port barrels for a fairly long time. Even as I write this I'm reminiscing on the rich, jammy flavor, almost still tasting it.

Admittedly, I did not take extensive notes on this one. That tends to happen when I find a bottle that I thoroughly enjoy. Those are the bottles I usually make it a point to bring out to share with friends, and in those circumstances, I find that I'm more simply enjoying the whiskey and the company than worrying about taking down notes. This was certainly that type of bottle, and it certainly scratched the aforementioned itch!

Grade: A