Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Eagle Rare Warehouse Liquors Single Barrel Select "Sky" Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- 40
- 90 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel No. 004
- Kentucky

I've got a little bit of a back-stock of Eagle Rare store picks, including a few from Warehouse Liquors, which is a good thing because Eagle Rare picks seem to have dried up a bit. I can't remember the last time I heard of any of my shops getting one in. For that reason, I've been hesitant to open the ones I have.

However, about a month ago I did the obligatory Yellowstone road-trip with the kids, and we stayed in Idaho with family friends, one of which is my old drinking buddy before we both moved. So, I figured vacation is as good of a reason as any to grab one of my Eagle Rare store picks, among a few other bottles, to open and enjoy with good company.  While I identified this as "Sky" in the title, this is not the original "Sky" (Barrel No. 196) that has the almost cult following. This one was released in 2019.

The nose was more or less what I expect from Eagle Rare. I got rich notes of caramel along with a warm cinnamon spice. It also had some dark chocolate notes, adding some richness and even just a touch of bitterness.  I also got notes of peanut and orange peel, which was interesting. It also had a bit of a yeasty quality, like bread dough.

The flavor was very cinnamon forward. It definitely had that spice that I noticed immediately on the tip of my tongue and that lingered at the back of my throat.  Along with that cinnamon spice, I also got a rich amaretto liqueur note. The two worked really well together, along with a nutty hazelnut note that worked very well with the dark chocolate.  It was like a rich, nutty, boozy bonbon.

There was a sort of fruit-forward quality to it as well, though I got a light amount of Maraschino cherry, along with a kind of sweet plum note. On later pours the cherry note seemed to come forward even more, and it became more of a fresh cherry note that I really enjoyed.

On the finish the cinnamon really seemed to dominate. That spicy finished seemed to linger at the back of my throat for quite some time. I also got a really tasty blackberry note that accompanied it. This combo was absolutely delicious, and, despite the low proof, the flavor seemed to stick around forever.

At first this came across as somewhat one-dimensional. But, just a couple pours in, all these fruit notes came in to complement the caramel and cinnamon notes in a way that just worked. And the finish was by far my favorite part, as that cinnamon and blackberry combination was do delicious. I may have to make it a point to get around to opening my other bottles.

Grade: A-

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Maker's Mark Generations of Proof

About a year and a half ago Maker's Mark released this three bottle Generations of Proof set, which, as I understand it, was available only at Costco. This "limited edition collection of our bourbon heritage" pays tribute to the Samuels lineage behind the Maker's Mark Brand. The set includes three 375 ml bottles, all at cask strength, and all showcasing Maker's Mark's most known products. The Maker's Mark Cask strength is in tribute to T. William Samuels, Maker's Mark's founder. The Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength is in tribute to his son, Bill Samuels, Jr., and the Maker's Mark Private Select is in tribute to grandson Rob Samuels.

When I saw these start showing up on various social media, it was added as a staple to our household Costco shopping list. My wife knew, whenever she was there, to look for this set, and of course I made it a point to seek it out whenever I made a Costco run as well. I was disappointed on so many trips to that store having not found any, and then one day my wife and my son came back from running errands with box in hand! I had a lot of fun with this, of course doing a couple side-by-side tastings, and then eventually finishing off each bottle one-by-one. I had thought about doing individual reviews, but I figured one post should cover it.

Maker's Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- 108.8 Proof

I've always been a fan of Maker's Mark Cask Strength since it was first released. While I wouldn't call it my "go-to" bottle (I don't really have one), it is certainly one that I'd push others toward. It's a very good bourbon bottled at cask strength, at a reasonable price, and is readily available. On the nose I got baked goods or pastry notes. It was like a bear claw with baked peaches and cinnamon. I even got a bit of a hazelnut note. I really loved the nose on this one.

As to flavor, it was certainly on the sweeter side with honey and vanilla taking center stage. I did get an interesting tea note that went really well with the vanilla and honey. It also had a brighter note, like crisp, sweet apple (and not that overripe apple note that I get so often in young bourbons).  Carrying through on that "sweet" theme, I also got a candy corn note, as well as some of the baked peaches I got on the nose. The finish tempered the sweetness a bit. I still got a light maple syrup note, but it was balanced out by a sort of pie crust note that made the finish very enjoyable.

Overall, while I did enjoy it, it leaned a bit more on the sweeter side than I generally prefer.

Grade: B

Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- 111.2 Proof

I've picked up a few 46 Cask Strength bottles here and there. There once was a time that it was a limited release only available at the distillery, but eventually Maker's Mark realized there was real money to be made off the stuff, and now I'm seeing it fairly regularly on the shelves, which is a good thing!  The nose on this one was a stark contrast to the regular cask strength. I immediately noticed a sort of damp or musty wood note. I know it sounds weird, but it wasn't off-putting, and it seemed to work really well with the other notes I got on the nose, including a rich fig or raisin note, and even a bacon note. It had just the slightest bit of sweetness.

The flavor didn't quite follow the nose. It certainly had the sweeter, rich notes of fig and raisin. But, along with that I got a significant pecan pie note. It was buttery and full of brown sugar, but also had a certain nutty quality to balance it out a bit. On the finish I got a rich dark cherry note and the nutty note seemed to lean more towards an oak note. Both flavors on the finish added some bitterness that balanced out the sweetness I was getting in the pecan pie flavors. It also had a bit more bite on the finish, with a spicy cinnamon note that lingered for quite a bit.

I enjoyed this one more than the regular cask strength but not by a lot. It did add the spice component as well as a bit more complexity that I would have desired in the regular cask strength.

Grade: B+

Maker's Mark Private Select Rob Samuels Personal Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- 110.2 Proof
- 2 Seared French Cuvee; 4 Roasted French Mocha; 4 Toasted French Spice

This was the one I was most excited about, primarily because every Maker's Mark private selection I've had has been its own unique experience, and I was very curious what experience a personal selection from Rob Samuels himself might provide.  This one gave off aromas of black pepper and oak. The oak at times leaned more towards a walnut flavor. It also had a light smokiness, kind of like a burnt sugar note, as well as a sweet, creamy nougat note.

Interestingly, the first note that I made while tasting this one was that it tasted like an older bourbon. It seemed to have significantly more oak influence, with some tannic bitterness coming through. I particularly enjoy a little bit of tannins, so long as it's not overdone (it's what I love about Elijah Craig 18 year), and here it was done very well. Rather than detract from the bourbon, it added to its complexity and character, complementing the sweet toffee and brown sugar notes. This one was a bit on the earthier side as well, with nutmeg and even a bit of leather. It had a healthy amount of cinnamon spice as well, which, along with that toffee note, lingered for quite a while on the finish. 

Of the three, this was certainly the one I enjoyed the most. But, that said, given the profile, I'd imagine plenty of others had one of the other two pegged as their favorite. This one, however, had complexity and even a touch of funk that I loved.

Grade: A-

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Castle & Key Restoration Kentucky Rye Whiskey

- $40
- 99 Proof
- 3 Years
- Batch No. 2
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles that I've been looking forward to without actually knowing that I was looking forward to it.  I've been following the story of Castle & Key distillery on social media for the past few years, particularly their restoration of the E.H. Taylor distillery. The work they've done is amazing, and it will certainly be a destination the next time I go to Kentucky to do some distillery touring.

But, I wasn't really following their releases. After all, I figured it'd be some time before their stuff was aged enough to put into a bottle, and even more time before I saw distribution to Illinois. But, on one of my stops into a random liquor store, just checking the shelves in case there was something new or different there, I cam across this Restoration Rye. The bottle and label is not only eye-catching, but also impressive. Even the topper carried some heft. At first I didn't even realize what it was, but when I saw it was from Copper & Key, I knew I had to give it a run.

The nose was a bit funky on this one. I got what I could only describe as a wet newspaper smell. It's not a horrible smell, just a bit odd and yet familiar. It certainly had something sweet and crackery to it as well, perhaps like a shortbread. It also had a note that reminded me of rum. It had that sugarcane sweetness to it.

And when I tasted it, it certainly landed on the sweet end of the spectrum. I did get the wafer cookie type note to it, but it also had that cane sugar quality I got on the nose. It even had a touch of molasses to it, to give it a darker, richer sugariness.  In this way it reminded me very much of rum finished ryes I've had in the past, though this wasn't rum finished. Unfortunately, I've never been a big fan of rum finishes in whiskey, because they just come across as too sweet for me.

Aside from the sweetness, that cracker quality persisted. At times it was more like shortbread, and at other times it was more plain, like a saltine without the salt. It did have a crisp pine note to it that let you know that it was definitely a rye.

The finish was where the rye spice really stuck out, though. There I got a lot of cinnamon coupled with a touch of anise just to provide that bit of tang or bite. However, that cinnamon spice was still accompanied by the rich, sugary molasses note, and even with the spice finally coming through, this rye just couldn't escape the overt sweetness.

Everything about this rye reminded me of a rum finished rye, from the nose to the flavor to the finish. And yet it wasn't rum finished. It was just a very sweet and sugary rye. Unfortunately, that is not what I go for. However, there are those out there that love those super sweet, rum finished whiskeys, and perhaps this would be for you.  Unfortunately, it was just too sugary sweet for me.

Grade: C

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Russell's Reserve 13 Year Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $75
- 114.8 Proof
- 13 Years
- Kentucky

What can I say about this release? When it was announced, I was very excited at the notion of one of my favorite distilleries putting out a limited release of one of my favorite brands aged for 13 years and bottled at cask strength!  What's not to love about that?  This was one of those few times where I got genuinely excited for a release and I certainly wanted to make sure to get my hands on a bottle.

And yet, I wasn't even aware that it had started hitting shelves in Illinois until my local store manager asked me if I wanted a bottle.  Seemed at the time to be a bit of a silly question, and I'm sure she knew the answer before I asked it. But, I was caught off guard, of course said yes, and excitedly brought the bottle home with me. Somehow, though, I managed enough restraint to not open it that night, but rather to wait a day until I could enjoy it with others.

When I took my first whiff of my glass, I knew I had something good here. I got a decent amount of oak, but certainly nothing overpowering. For me it was the right amount. Along with that I got sweeter notes of caramel and brown sugar, and it was very cookie-like. I also got a slight coffee note, and it came across almost like a mocha.

While the nose was very good, the flavor was even better.  I immediately noticed rich dark cherry notes that seemed to complement the oak that was certainly prevalent (but again, not overbearing by any stretch). I also got sweet vanilla and caramel notes that really worked well with the cherry and oak, and at times I got a burnt sugar note which added just a touch of smokiness to the mix.

On later pours I picked up some other notes, including orange peel, which gave it a bit of an Old Fashioned flavor. I also got notes of pie crust that really made the cherry notes come across as cherry pie filling. The wood notes I was getting earlier somehow seemed to temper what little bitterness they provided and even sweetened up a bit.

This had a great, long finish with a nice oily texture that coated the mouth in flavor for a long time. On the finish I got cherry cola, and later on it seemed more like a Dr. Pepper. There was a bit of black pepper spice, as well as a lingering anise note. 

I really loved everything about this bourbon. It hit on all cylinders for me, providing more wood influence, but only enough to be one of the notes in the mix, rather than the stand-out flavor. Every single flavor seemed to complement the others perfectly.  I really hope that Wild Turkey continues to put out these releases. I will grab any that I can get my hands on.

Grade: A

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Springbank Cask Strength 12 Year Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

- $120
- 114.2 Proof
- 12 Years
- Campbeltown

One of my buddies, who also happens to work at a liquor store, is well-aware of my relatively recent fascination with all things Campbeltown. As a result, I've been fortunate to get first shot at some of the more allocated Campbeltown releases when they come in. Luckily for me, the demand on those isn't nearly as high as it is for allocated bourbons.

Recently his store got in the Kilkerran 8 year cask strength and this Springbank 12 year cask strength. I had only planned on getting one bottle that day, so I went with the one with more age. The fact that I've so far loved everything Springbank certainly made it an easier choice as well. This was also the first time that I've seen the 12 year cask strength on the shelves, so I wanted to make sure not to pass up the opportunity.

On the nose I got a light smokiness along with black pepper, both which seemed to tickle my nostrils. Underneath that spicy smoke note, though, was smooth salted caramel, along with rich dark chocolate. It even had a touch of bitterness to it to balance everything out. There was a lot going on here, but it all worked together.

As to flavor, much like the nose, I got a light smoke up front. This certainly wasn't a heavily peated whisky, but it didn't necessarily shy away from it. I also got a distinct earthy note, something almost musty and funky. It was oaky and almost piney. It sounds a bit weird as I write this, but I actually loved it. That earthy note gave it a lot of character and funk.  It also had that black pepper bite up front.

I think what I liked most about that earthy note is the fact that it was immediately followed by a great balancing sweetness. This whisky was full of butterscotch and brown sugar. It also had this consistent chocolate covered almond note. Yet it never got anywhere close to being too sweet, and remained very well-balanced.

The light smoke seemed to really complement the butterscotch notes, particularly on the finish, where both notes seemed to linger forever. This had me diving back into my glass for the next sip. That combination was so incredibly good and provided for a rich and tasty finished that was capstoned by that black pepper spice just to keep it interesting.

Springbank has done it again for me with this one. Even if the Sherry influence wasn't strong, the well-roundedness and the combination of otherwise great flavors made for one enjoyable dram! I understand it's a twice a year release, and I'm absolutely going to have my eye out for future releases.

Grade: A

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Highland Park 12 Year Viking Honour Single Malt Scotch

- $60
- 86 Proof
- 12 Years
- Orkney

I've been continuing my foray into and exploration of peaty fruit in the Scotch world. I've learned that I absolutely love the combination of a peated Scotch with a wine finish, and lately I've been grabbing pretty much whatever I can get my hands one in an effort to try everything.

My buddy suggested that I give this Highland Park 12 year a try. According to him, it was a bit more subtle with both the peat and the wine finish. I was told it wasn't going to be nearly as smoky as an Islay Scotch, but that the Sherry cask influence really balances perfectly.  I am admittedly still a neophyte when it comes to Scotch. There's just so much to try. And I still feel like a neophyte when talking strictly about peated Scotches aged in wine barrels. But, I am learning what I like and I was eager to give another one a go.

While subtle, the sherry notes still dominated the nose. I got a lot of bright and dark fruits, like blackberry and blueberry. I also got a bright strawberry note as well. It had a light smokiness along with a light salinity. What stood out, though, was a distinct breadiness to it that was almost donut-like. The nose was soft, but it still had a lot going on and it smelled delicious.

As to the flavor, my buddy was right. The peat didn't hit me like an Islay. It was a light smokiness, and at times it seemed as though it could almost pass as unpeated.  Almost.  Accompanying that light smokiness, though, were those bright fruit notes I want out of the Sherry cask. I got raspberry and dried strawberry that really stood out.

Beyond those somewhat expected flavors, though, were some interesting and unexpected notes that I enjoyed. I got a certain citrus note, almost lemony, as well as a certain salinity that seemed to come with the peat.  It also had a certain sweet note that was kind of a honey-like note. That honey note seemed to lean towards that bread note at times, but it added a sweetness to this beyond the Sherry influence.

The finish was short-lived, as this whisky was relatively thin in texture. However, I did get some nice, warm dessert-like spices. I got baked, spiced pear on the finish along with cinnamon spice and a nice black pepper bite. I also got a sort of peach liqueur on the finish as well that was a pleasant surprise.

Overall, I do like a bit heavier peat, and I wish the texture wasn't so thin. I think there were some great and fun flavors here, but it all seemed a bit muted. A bolder version of this would be outstanding. This was good, just not as good as it could have been.

Grade: B

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Sonoma Distilling Co. Oak + Swine Single Barrel Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey

- $55
- 118 Proof
- 4 Years
- Barrel No. 17-0858
- California

I've been a member of a Facebook whiskey club called the Fox Valley Whiskey Society since its inception a couple years ago. Its founder, Michael Verive, has been incredibly diligent in putting together events for members, and more recently he has been tirelessly arranging for private barrels for the group.

For this particular bottling, he worked with a local barbecue joint, Oak + Swine in Batavia, Illinois to pick a single barrel, cask strength rye whiskey from Sonoma Distilling Co.  It's a four year rye whiskey distilled by Sonoma Distilling, and its the first Sonoma single barrel picked in Illinois. Of course, when the opportunity to get my hands on one of these came around, I had to grab a couple. I just couldn't pass up a cask strength single barrel rye at a reasonable price.

The nose was very pungent, the kind where you can smell the whiskey from across the table when you first open it. I got rich and spicy notes of pine and plum. It also had some darker fruit notes as well, like fig and raisin. Those notes were accompanied by a rich molasses sweetness.  I've now used the word "rich" twice to describe it, but that's kind of a theme here, as this smelled very rich. That was tempered a bit by the significant cinnamon spice I got on the nose as well.

The flavor really hit the pine note, however. Up front  I was inundated with pine and resin notes. It almost had a "dank" quality to it. That pine note was accompanied by a heavy hit of cinnamon which bit the tongue right up front and stuck around well through the finish. It was the pine and cinnamon combination that really defined this rye, that and the fact that it was incredibly punchy. It seemed to smack you in the face with flavor.

In addition to the pine and cinnamon, though, I got a nice layer of unsweetened vanilla that seemed to underscore everything else. It also had a slight cornbread note to it, which I found interesting as there was no corn in this. The mashbill was 80% rye and 20% malted rye, which explains the bold and punchy rye spices and flavors, but not the sweet cornbread note I got.

This rye had a great viscous quality to it, really coating the mouth and lending to a very long finish. Of course I got the spicy cinnamon that just never seemed to go away, but along with that I got a vanilla and molasses combination that really provided some sweetness to counter some of the rich but not-so-sweet flavors. The finish was probably my favorite part of the experience.

For their first pick, the guys at Oak + Swine selected a really damn good barrel, one that is absolutely full of punchy flavor. There's nothing subtle about this whiskey, and that's what I love most in a rye. Give me that bold spicy rye over the softer, more wheat or corn forward ryes any day.

Grade: B+

Friday, August 13, 2021

Sazerac Binny's Single Barrel Select Straight Rye Whiskey - Barrel #011

- $30
- 90 Proof
- Barrel #011
- Kentucky

I think one of the best things out there in the bourbon world are the inexpensive private barrels. Store picks of Buffalo Trace, Knob Creek, Elijah Craig and Larceny, just to name a few, can provide some incredible bang for the buck. And as far as being priced right, I'd throw the Sazerac Rye in the mix as well. 

Now, I've only recently begun seeing and trying Sazerac Rye store picks, so the jury is still out as to whether they provide the same "bang."  But, at only $30, it is certainly one of the more affordable ryes in any private barrel program.  Plus, Sazerac generally has a good, easy-going flavor profile. So, of course, once Binny's got their initial batch of single barrel selects, I quickly nabbed one off the shelf.  

The nose was full of light and smooth caramel notes.  I also got a sweet nougat note that fit with that creamy profile. It had a light nuttiness to it, kind of like almond. It all blended together to create this sort of breakfast pastry note. It even had a light touch of cinnamon spice to round it all out.

Given the nose, the flavor kind of took me back. I got notes of pine and sweet cherry right up front. It wasn't punchy, though, and my initial impression was that it was very good.  I also got a little bit of that cinnamon right up front, noticeable on the tip of my tongue on each sip. 

Those up-front flavors quickly gave way to flavors more consistent with the nose. I got that sweet, creamy nougat, as well as a touch of chocolate. While the caramel didn't really come through, the almond certainly did, but more in the form of amaretto liqueur. It added just a touch of richness and depth to the whiskey.

The finish did not leave much of an impression. It primarily consisted of that sweet nougat note, perhaps a touch of caramel, and a trace amount of cinnamon. It was actually a bit fleeting, and this was really the only negative that I have. While some of that is attributable to the low proof, even for the proof I found the finish to be lacking.

That being said, while I took some time getting around to actually opening it, once I did, I found that I made my way through it fairly quickly. It was basically a better version of Sazerac Rye, and what more could you ask for out of this? At $30, this absolutely provided that bang for the buck that I wanted, and I'll certainly continue to add these to my shelf when I come across them.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Maker's Mark Wood Finishing Series FAE-01 2021 Limited Release Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $60
- 110.6 Proof
- Kentucky

These Maker's Mark Wood Finishing Series Limited Releases have really been hits. I really enjoyed the last two releases, so when I randomly came across this bottle in a small liquor store that I stopped into in my various travels, really wanting to get something, I decided to give this newest release a go. 

This particular release was aged with ten Virgin Toasted American Oak Staves. On its face that means very little to me.  The front label does provide tasting notes, indicating that it's "A fruit forward expression with notes of tobacco and wood." That said, tasting notes on a bottle also mean very little to me. After all, it's not as though the distiller is going to tell the consumer that this tastes like band-aids and dirt. And I've found that my tasting notes frequently do not match up anyway. So I decided to give this a try simply on the fact that Maker's has done a great job with their prior releases, and it's worth a try on that basis alone.

The nose was sweet, rich and full of dark fruits. I immediately got notes of raisin and fig, along with a healthy amount of brown sugar. It reminded me a bit of an oatmeal cookie. I certainly got a light char note as well. It also had this kind of woody spice to it, perhaps a bit like cinnamon sticks.

The flavor followed suit to some extent, but also brought out some additional notes that really made for an interesting, complex and delicious bourbon. Right up front I got baked peach and cinnamon, like a peach cobbler or a peach crisp. There were also some dark fruits as well, but rather than fig and raisin it came across almost like a mulled wine. It reminded me a bit of Christmas in that respect.

It definitely had some wood notes to it, though it was only in the flavor. It didn't create any sort of bitterness that you often get with wood notes. It also had a bit of char to it as well, but only just enough to add that light, smoky element.

The texture was fairly viscous, which made for a very long finish. Unfortunately, on the finish the bitter tannic notes did some through, surprisingly. Yet, at the same time, it was on the finish that the sweet caramel notes, kind of that traditional Maker's flavor, came through as well. This was not a sweet whiskey, certainly not a typical wheated whiskey in that respect, but it had just enough caramel sweetness to keep it enjoyable and offset that tannic wood note.

Overall, Maker's has put out yet another solid release in the Wood Finishing Series.  Those wintertime dessert notes were a welcome change while I enjoyed this whiskey during the dog days of Summer. It had a richness and complexity that I haven't enjoyed in a while, and my only real negative was that tannic bitterness, but even that was balanced out by the caramel sweetness.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Backbone Bourbon Anniversary Edition "Decade Down" Uncut Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $80
- 110 Proof
- 5 years, 1 month
- Indiana

Backbone Bourbon first caught my attention when the first thing I saw of theirs on the shelf was a 15 year bourbon. I can't remember the source, whether it came from Tennessee or Indiana, and it wasn't on the shelf very long. I sure didn't get a bottle (I don't even remember the price), but a couple friends of mine tried it, and while the reviews weren't raving, the consensus was that it was pretty good.

I then saw this "Decade Down" Anniversary Edition on the shelf. At first I was excited. After all, given the name, I was under the misimpression that this was a cask strength, 10 year bourbon. However, when I turned the bottle over, I learned that wasn't the case, as it clearly states, albeit on the back label, that it was aged for 5 years and 6 months. But, it was, in fact, MGP whiskey. So, I nonetheless took a bottle home with me to try. 

On the nose I got a healthy dose of cinnamon. That was accompanied by some dark chocolate as well as a light anise note. Altogether my initial impression was this had a rich and delicious aroma. It also had a sort of oatmeal cookie note on the nose as well that provided a bit of sweetness to accompany those rich chocolate and cinnamon notes.

When I took my first sip, I was immediately surprised at the fact that the youth of this whiskey didn't come through at all. It had the kind of character, richness and complexity that you find in bourbons 10 years or older, and none of the rough edges or harsh, grain-forward flavors you get out of younger whiskeys. This was already a pleasant surprise.

I got a lot of rich, smooth caramel, like the good quality caramel you find in the middle of expensive chocolates, like Godiva, maybe. It also had a constant chocolate note, but not the dark chocolate I got on the nose. Rather this was more of a sweet and creamy milk chocolate. I even got some nougat flavor as well, and as I was jotting down my notes I realized I could have been describing a high-end version of a Milky Way.  That's one of my favorite candy bars, so needless to say I was completely on board.

On the finish the cinnamon really came through, which was nice in that it kept this bourbon from ever getting to be too sweet. It had a somewhat oily texture that coated my mouth in chocolate and cinnamon, and it seemed to stick around for quite some time. It was on the finish that I also got some unsweetened vanilla notes (perhaps from the nougat I got up front).

Going in, I honestly wasn't expecting a lot from this, and this is one of the more positively surprising whiskeys I've had in recent memory. I genuinely liked this. A lot, actually.  It ended up being the bottle that I just kept grabbing off the shelf until it was gone, simply because I knew it was delicious and I just wanted more. It really hit a lot of the right spots for me. While the price may be a little high, I've seen far worse for far inferior products.

Grade: A-

Sunday, August 8, 2021

One Eight Distilling Untitled Binny's Private Barrel Selection 14 Year Straight Bourbon

- 140
- 117.7 Proof
- 14 Years
- Barrel No. 362

Untitled, the bourbon label coming out of One Eight Distilling in Washington D.C., seemed to come on as sort of a surprise to me. I had never heard of either the label or the distillery prior to about a year or so ago. But then I saw a couple of these squat bottles, specifically Release No. 11 and Release No. 13, with age statements, high proof and intriguing cask finishes. So I had to try one and lo and behold it was pretty good!

When I learned that Binny's was going to be getting a private barrel from them, I was immediately interested. When I learned that that private barrel was going to be a 14-year cask strength straight bourbon, I was completely sold. Quite frankly, having only seen the exotic blends of finished bourbon poured into these bottles up to this point, I wanted to know how an unfinished, well-aged cask strength bourbon under their label would taste.

The nose was interesting, for sure. It immediately came across as bright and sweet, with orange peel and vanilla right up front. It had a very caramel forward note providing the sweetness, but also a sort of sponge cake type of aroma to it, like that smell of freshly baked cake that fills the kitchen, which I absolutely loved.  It also had a bright cherry note as well. There was a lot going on here, but it smelled delicious, and I couldn't wait to dive into my glass.

The very first note that I wrote down when I took my first sip was "cherry cordial."  It hit on all elements of dark chocolate, cherry, vanilla and event that brandy liqueur note. I was immediately impressed. This was also the note that really dominated the finish. Long after each sip my mouth remained filled with those chocolate and candied cherry notes, and I found myself quickly reaching for the next sip.

It also had a certain amount of oak to it as well, to be expected, I guess, given the amount of time in the barrel. However, that note really just added a bit of an earthy element, and did not take away from the sweet, cherry cordial note. It didn't add any bitterness, just a bit of depth.

Other flavors came through from time to time as well as I made my way through this bottle. I did get notes of dried strawberries at times, adding a different, brighter element of sweet berry  I also got notes of cola, and at times I even got that light pastry note akin to the sponge cake I was getting on the nose. I even got the slightest mocha note, perhaps with the wood showing more influence in later pours and offering just a touch of bitterness.

All in all, this was a rich and delectable whiskey. It never got too sweet, always tempered by the dark chocolate and brandy liqueur notes that I was getting.  That cherry cordial note, which I loved, was prominent in every pour. I almost wanted to make my own dessert using this whiskey. Well, not really, but I enjoyed it that much!

Grade: A

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Templeton 10 Year Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey

- $80
- 104 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel No. 2779
- Indiana

I knew it had been quite a while since I've had Templeton Rye. In fact, I had to look back at my blog archives to see when the last time was, and it was back in 2015. Without looking back at that, I couldn't have told you now whether or not I liked it (turns out I was somewhat ambivalent).  I think part of the reason I haven't gone back to the Templeton products was the issue from years ago involving their adding a flavoring to their whiskey. That kind of stuff turns me off, and, whether consciously or subconsciously, I'm sure is part of the reason I haven't given it another go.

But then there came the promise of a higher proof, 10 year, single barrel MGP rye packaged under the Templeton label, and that was enough to get me to try it again. I've certainly seen lesser-aged MGP ryes command much higher prices, so for $80, this one seemed fairly reasonable.

The nose was actually softer than what I expected. Given the proof, the age and the provenance, I expected something punch and full of spice.  This, however, leaned more towards notes of sweet wheat bread and honey. It did have a decent amount of wood notes to it, even getting a bit tannic. The one bright spot, though, was the delicious blackberry jam note that seemed to work really well with the honey and bread notes. 

Surprisingly, though, the flavor was much more in line with my expectations. Right up front I got bold notes of pine and cinnamon, with a strong vanilla undercurrent. In fact, that vanilla was more than I've ever noticed in an MGP rye before, dominating the stage right up front all the way through the finish. It wasn't a sweet vanilla, but rather more of a natural vanilla extract note.

I did get some spearmint and even a bit of black pepper spice. I think it's these flavors, mixed with the strong vanilla note, that reminded me at times of a root beer float. It just had that mix of vanilla and spices.  In fact, the spearmint note seemed to get more and more prominent as I made my way through this bottle.

The finish is where the spice in this rye really came through. I certainly got that same black pepper that I was getting up front, but I was also getting something hot. It was almost like a cayenne pepper type spice. There was some cinnamon and even a little bit of nutmeg sprinkled in. 

With that punch on the finish, though, I came to the conclusion that this was one of the spicier whiskeys I've had in a long time, and I found myself reaching for this bottle in particular to scratch that itch when I got it.  It wasn't my favorite rye of all time by any stretch, but it certainly fit a certain mood that I find myself in from time to time, and for that reason alone it was worth having on my shelf.

Grade: B