Thursday, September 30, 2021

Four Roses Single Barrel Meier Private Selection Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon - OBSF

- $75
- 107.4 Proof
- 9 years, 11 mos.
- Kentucky

This bottle is kind of a weird one. I was talking with a neighbor one day and he told me that a mutual friend of ours had picked up a cask strength Four Roses single barrel at Meier. Knowing that the only way that could be the case would be if it were a store pick, and doubting that Meier, of all places, would have a Four Roses private barrel, I texted my friend for a picture. What he sent me was equally strange.

While it certainly was a Four Roses Private Selection, it didn't indicate in any way who it was selected by. The label just read, "Specially Selected By" and immediately below that was a cartoon drawing of a barrel on its side. No indication as to who this was selected by or for. That said, when I was next in Meier, I couldn't help myself, and I went to the liquor store aisle, and there, pushed all the way to the back of the shelf, was one remaining bottle. I took a look, saw the OBSF mashbill and the 9 years, 11 months age statement, and I figured, "What the hell!" At the very least I was curious about this mystery selection.

The nose seemed to have a significant cereal note to it, as well as a healthy amount of cinnamon. It was kind of like cinnamon Cheerios, or even Cinnamon Toast Crunch but with the sugar dialed down a bit. I also got a light chocolate note along with a light peanut note. There was also a bright but slightly bitter orange peel note on the nose as well.

The first note that I got when I took my first sip was an Old Fashioned. The cherry was right up front, with more of that Maraschino cherry flavor. I also got that same orange peel note that I was getting on the nose. It even had a bit of a splash of cola, which really seemed, for some reason, to round out that Old Fashioned note. 

There was a bit of an odd note that I got as well, something like a cleaning solvent. My mind went right to that stuff you use to clean wood that smells like orange, but I've never actually tried tasting that, so I'm not sure if that's a fair comparison or not.  It's what I'd imagine that stuff tastes like.  It wasn't a strong note, but it was there.

On later pours the cherry and cinnamon really seemed to take center stage. The cinnamon always remains sweet with a light spice, kind of like cinnamon cereal, I guess.  The cherry note, however, seemed to stray from that great Maraschino flavor to more of an artificial cherry candy flavor. I know many people like this note, but I'm not among them. 

Unfortunately, on the finish that cherry candy note came across as more of a cherry cough syrup or cough drop that seemed to linger, particularly in the back of my throat. This was certainly a bit of a turnoff to me, and I was surprised that this note seemed to develop toward the end. It's not often that I get a bottle that seemed to taste worse on the last few pours than on the first few, but this was one. That said, the mystery behind it still intrigues me, and I know if given the chance I'd do it all over again.

Grade: B-

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Pursuit United Blended Straight Bourbon

- $60
- 108 Proof
- Kentucky/Tennessee

Pursuit Spirits is the creation of Ryan and Kenny, the hosts of the Bourbon Pursuit podcast. I've been listening to these guys for years.  I distinctly remember the first episode I listened to was Episode 15, released on May 27, 2015 -- Party Planning the Bourbon Trail with Mint Julep Tours, Sean Higgins. It was this episode that prompted me to book two days of bourbon tours with Mint Julep Tours when I visited Kentucky for the first time.

Since then I've pretty much listened to every episode, obviously some not as good as others. But, it's become a really good source of bourbon information as well as entertainment. When they first got into releasing their own line, which they made available to Patreon members, I was certainly intrigued, but I never got my hands on a bottle. This Pursuit United, however, has fairly wide distribution. So, when it made its way onto liquor store shelves by me, I felt I had to give it a try.

On the nose I got a decent amount of oak, along with some cinnamon spice. At times the oak note seemed to lean towards nutmeg. There was a certain sweetness to it, like sugar cane. Weirdly enough, I also got the smell of bran muffins, with hints of orange and cherry along for the ride. This had a bit of a weird nose, and it seemed a bit schizophrenic.

The flavor didn't come across quite so weird, thankfully.  Right up front I got the spicy cinnamon. However, the sweetness up front wasn't sugar cane, but rather was a light toffee sweetness, rich and soft and not so in your face. That was balanced by a bit of anise, adding a little tanginess to the mix

I also got a slight salinity, though I'm not sure where that would have come from. As weird as it sounds, though, it kind of worked, as I also got an underlying peanut note throughout. In fact, on later pours that peanut note seemed to be even more prominent.

On the finish the saltiness was more prominent, but rather than peanuts it seemed to accompany a sweet corn note, and even a candied apple flavor. The finish seemed to go in a bit of a different direction in that respect. This bourbon was kind of all over the place in flavor (and aroma), but overall it was sweet with decent spice and pretty good, even if it came across as a weird mish mosh of flavors.

Grade: B

Monday, September 13, 2021

Savage & Cooke Digits Bourbon Whiskey

- $70
- 92 Proof
- 5 years
- California

I've grown a bit weary of celebrity whiskeys. It seems as though every time I turn around, there's another one being release, whether it's from Terry Bradshaw, Peyton Manning, Drake or Bob Dylan, and even John Wayne. But, the '90's Chicago Bulls fan in my was nonetheless excited to see Scottie Pippen with his own brand.  Working with Savage & Cooke out in California, Digits was released, a five year old California Bourbon.

I'm not sure if I would have gotten around to purchasing a bottle or not. I'd like to think that I would have. But, thanks to a very generous friend, I never had to get to that point. Also a big '90's Bulls fan, he made it a point to make an hour-plus drive to see Scottie in person and get not just one bottle signed, but two, with me being the lucky beneficiary of that second bottle! So, not only do I get the keepsake of the signed bottle, but I got to try the whiskey itself as well!

When I took my first whiff off the glass, I struggled to find the aroma. It was fairly soft, but what I did get was fairly corn centric. I got kind of that cornmeal and certainly a cornbread note. It also had some caramel sweetness to it. There was a bit of a fruit note, like plum, but with a touch of sourness.

While I found the nose to be somewhat soft, a lot of what I was getting there carried over to the flavor. My first two notes were plum and caramel corn. It sounds like a weird combination, and it kind of was. The caramel provided some sweetness to counter the light sour but sweet note of the plum. That was all underscored by the grain-forward note I was getting, a popcorn-like note.

On the finish some cinnamon spice came through. The corn note lingered, but I also got a certain peanut quality, and even an almond note. It was perhaps that almond note that gave off a cinnamon liqueur note at times. 

On the last few pours, the cinnamon seemed to come forward more, but that corn grain note never went away. Oddly enough, it developed what was almost a garlic note towards the last few pours, and I had a hard time getting past that. It wasn't terrible tasting or anything, but rather was just a bit weird.

In the end this probably wasn't for me. I do love that this bottle was gifted to me, and that I've got an empty bottle signed by Scottie Pippen as a keepsake. But the flavor, while never bad, was just a bit odd. The flavors just didn't seem to work cohesively with one another, resulting in some weird combinations.

Grade: C+

Monday, September 6, 2021

Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dha Islay Single Malt Scotch

- $65
- 92.6
- Islay

As it is, I can barely pronounce "Bunnahabhain," and I'm sure I'm still pronouncing it wrong. I certainly still don't know how to pronounce "Toiteach a Dha." But, this particular bottle came highly recommended by my local liquor store guy when he learned of my interest in fruity peat -- peated Scotches finished in wine barrels. 

This particular bottling was finished in Sherry casks, and this is supposed to have greater sherry influence than normal Bunnahabhain (perhaps I should have started there, but oh well).  Either way, it's yet another example of a smoky Islay Scotch finished in fortified wine casks, and I couldn't wait to try another example of peat meets sweet with this Sherry finish.

The nose was, of course, smoky, giving off a bit of barbecue and char. I really didn't get as much of the Sherry that I had hoped to. Rather, what I noticed was something earthy and funky, like the smell of camping in the rain. Later on I did get a nice cherry note, like a fresh cherry off the tree. Perhaps that was the Sherry that I was missing before.

As to flavor, the peat notes certainly hit right up front, but that was immediately balanced out by the Sherry, with bright notes of raspberry and cherry mingling with the peat smoke. This is what I was looking for! 

The raspberry had a bit of a jammy quality to it. It was sweet and rich like a raspberry donut filling. That raspberry also provided a light tartness, and on later pours I was getting a sweetened cranberry note. While it definitely was sweeter, it also had a char note that was a bit like burnt sugar. The peat smoke did provide a bit of that band-aid note that can turn people off, but here it wasn't strong nor off-putting.

The finish let that sweet, fruity smoke linger for a decent while, and it's on the finish that a certain salinity came through. In a way that finish had me yearning for the next sip.  This was in many ways what I love about wine finished, peated Scotches. The only criticisms I had were very minor, and I'd certainly go back to this one in a heartbeat.

Grade: B+

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Jeppson's Binny's Select Cognac Finished Cask Strength Single Barrel Straight Bourbon

- $45
- 119.3 Proof
- 5 Years
- Barrel No. C1
- Indiana

These Jeppson's bourbons are interesting to me. Around Chicago, people are very familiar with Jeppson's Malort, and usually for all the wrong reasons. Despite that negative association, though, CH Distilling elected to release a bourbon that is branded almost exactly like Malort. So, even though it's a completely different spirit, it nonetheless has that association.

That said, what I've had of Jeppson's bourbon so far I've enjoyed. It is MGP bourbon, after all (though they've also sourced from Tennessee), so I guess that's not entirely unexpected. And when Binny's got a cask strength single barrel finished in Cognac casks, of course I was going to give that a try. I do love cognac finishes, and I certainly love them at cask strength!

The aroma was very nutty, full of a pecan or walnut type of note. It also had a sweet and rich cooked peach note as well as a bit of a cinnamon spice. It was kind of like a cobbler. I also got notes of fig and raisin, as well as a bit of a bready note that, with the cinnamon and pecan, gave it a sort of raisin bread aroma.

The flavor very much followed suite, particularly with the cobbler notes  Right up front I got sort of a brown sugar and butter note, sweet and rich. I also got the baked peach as well as some baked pear along with some cinnamon and pecan. It was very much like a warmed up dessert, the kind that would go great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

At times I also got sort of a burnt orange note, perhaps better described as a muted orange note combined with burnt sugar. I also got a pretty good amount of raisin throughout, again following suit with the nose.

On the finish I got orange liqueur and even more cinnamon. I also got a bit of a peanut note, certainly different than the nutty notes I was getting on the nose. This was a bit less woody and a touch sweeter. I also got the raisin that persisted throughout.

I love Cognac finishes because of that rich, dessert-like quality they add. While it's sweet, it's not sugary like rum finishes. Rather, they tend to have more depth and richness along with a ton of different flavors to be pulled. This bottle was no different. Once I finally opened it, I made my way to the bottom of the bottle fairly quickly.

Grade: B+

Friday, September 3, 2021

Barrell Seagrass Rye Whiskey Finished in Martinique Rum, Madeira and Apricot Brandy Barrels


- $90
- 118.4 Proof
- Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee & Canada

This is an interesting bottling, and one that I was on the fence about buying, quite honestly. There's a lot going on here.  Not only is this a blended rye sourced from Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Canada, but the finishes are kind of crazy and unique. It all sounds like it would make for a very sweet, almost sugary whiskey, particularly with the Madeira and apricot brandy finishes. What makes this interesting, though, is the Martinique Rum finish.

I've had rum Agricole one time in my life. It was very well-aged, and I absolutely hated it. It wasn't a sweet rum, and to me it had the very distinct taste of burning paper. The idea of a whiskey finished in such a barrel certainly did not appeal to me. However, I know that the Agricole influence wouldn't be anywhere close to what I tasted then, and the fact that it doesn't necessarily lend to the sweetness told me it might actually help temper the influence of the Madeira and apricot brandy barrels. In the end, the intrigue got the best of me, and I decided to give this one a try.

Not unexpectedly, the nose was very sweet up front, with the apricot being very noticeable, particularly dried apricots. I also got a bit of sweet orange peel. But, behind those sweet citrus notes was a layer of smoke, I'm guessing from the Agricole rum finish, that oddly worked very well with the apricot. It also had a bit of a black pepper spice to it to remind me that this is a rye whiskey.

On my first sip, my initial thought was, "Holy apricot!"  It was nearly all I could taste on the tip of my tongue, this strong apricot jam flavor. It was very tasty, but it was also very sweet and almost syrupy in flavor. I also got some baked apple and a bit of a pie crust note, which was very enjoyable, but again, very much on the sweet side.

The sweetness, however, isn't necessarily a sugary type of sweetness. It comes across more as rich and jammy. I got a pastry note that reminded me of an apricot Danish, with a bit of a powdered sugar icing kind of flavor to follow.

Beyond these sweet citrus and pastry notes, though, I did get notes of pine and cinnamon, again reminding me that the base grain here is definitely rye. Also, I didn't get it at first, but about halfway through the bottle I started noticing this smoky note that I really enjoyed. It added another layer and a bit more complexity. Plus, the smoke was delicious with the apricot. I've never had smoked apricot before, but if I were to try it, my hope would be that it comes out tasting like this.

While this was a very sweet rye, it nonetheless scratched a certain itch. Sometimes I get in the mood for something on the sweeter side, and this whiskey found a bit of balance with the spice of the rye and that funk from the Martinique rum barrel influence. I found that I really liked it for something different and unique, and I would absolutely get this again.

Grade: B+