Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Untitled Woodman's Private Barrel Selection 10-Year Calvados Finished Bourbon

- $80
- 121.2 Proof
- 10 years
- Barrel 1012
- Indiana

It seems as though for a short while there was a sort of flood of these Untitled barrel picks. I had picked one up at Binny's, had seen a few on shelves of other smaller liquor stores near me that appeared to be distributor picks, as well as this one from Woodman's (which I understand was one of at least two picks that Woodman's got in). 

There are a lot of positives about this bottle just going on face value, before even trying the whiskey inside. First, it's MGP bourbon. So that's a good start. Second, it's a 10-year old bourbon, so it's got some decent age to it. Third, it's a single barrel (which doesn't mean a whole lot, but people seem to favor those). Fourth, it's bottled at cask strength. And fifth, it's finished in Calvados barrels, something that appeals immensely to me! This bottle certainly had a lot going for it, so the price tag of $80 didn't actually seem all that prohibitive.

The most notable thing about this whiskey is that it is bold! This was apparent even from the nose. The aroma was strong, making its presence known a few feet away from the glass.  I was getting great, rich notes of peach and amaretto. It had a light oakiness to it, as well as a light peanut note as well. It even had a bit of the saltiness that comes with the peanut note. I also got a sort of a black tea note.

The flavor was likewise super rich. Right up front I got a ton of amaretto liqueur, as well as rich, dark fruit notes like fig and plum. It had a molasses type sweetness to it as well.  There as a bit of an oakiness in the flavor, just as in the nose, and that provided some tannic bitterness that kept the molasses sweetness from going too far.

I certainly got wine notes, something along the lines of a rich (I find myself using that word a lot here) Cabernet Sauvignon. I really got this on the finish, which was full of wine and black pepper spice. The finish was also fairly boozy, providing a good amount of heat as well as a sweet but charred burnt sugar note.

Everything about this was rich and full of flavor that absolutely smacked me in the mouth with each sip. However, the one knock I'd have on it is that the finish was so overpowering that the bourbon wasn't really allowed to shine through.  This was more like a syrupy, cask strength Calvados than it was a bourbon that received some influence from a Calvados barrel. That said, for what it was it was still really good!

Grade: B+

Monday, November 29, 2021

Yellowstone 2019 Limited Edition 9 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $100
- 101 Proof
- 9 years
- Kentucky

Limestone Branch had really been hitting homeruns lately with their Yellowstone bottlings. I've enjoyed every one of their annual limited edition releases, though I haven't tried this year's release. And the single barrel picks that only hit the market recently have all been very good, at least the ones I've tried. 

This bottle, however, is the cream of the crop, as the cool kids would say. There is no finishing to this whiskey. Instead, they just bottled some very delicious 9 year Kentucky straight bourbon.  It's not clear who actually distilled this bourbon, but it is clear that they didn't go with any gimmicks or other variants in the whiskey for this limited release, and what they gave us was an outstanding bourbon.

On the nose I got rich and delicious notes of toffee and dark chocolate. There was also a light cinnamon spice to it. In addition to that, however, I got a sort of a blackberry note that somehow seemed to go perfectly with the chocolate and toffee notes. Perhaps that's some kind of candy combination I need to try, because it was really good.

While the cinnamon was light on the nose, it was much more prominent on the palate. I got some nice, warming cinnamon spice as well as a sharper black pepper spice immediately on the tip of my tongue, and it lasted through the finish. 

As to actual flavor, the cinnamon spice came with a cinnamon flavor (if that makes sense), which was sweetened by vanilla bean and milk chocolate flavors--the kinds of flavors that are sweet but never too sweet. There was also something nutty and roasty, kind of like a hazelnut note.

At times it did go a touch sweeter, kind of like a caramel icing note. There was also a doughnut-like pastry note to it as well. However, again, it was never allowed to get too sweet, and even these notes were balanced out by a macchiato flavor that provided more of that roasty note and even a touch of bitterness to keep things even.

The finish was almost all sweet warm cinnamon and that vanilla bean flavor that seemed to work so well together. And the cinnamon and black pepper spices lingered long enough to keep me wanting that next sip.

When this was first released, I got to try it side by side with the Van Winkle Lot B 12 year old bourbon, and the consensus among the group of us was that this bourbon beat out the Van Winkle, and it didn't seem all that close. So when it suddenly hit the shelves again a year later, I had to have one. And then I had to drink that one. And now I have none, which makes me sad. But, I really enjoyed what was an incredible bourbon, and hopefully they'll go back to doing a simple but great bourbon in future Limited Edition releases. 

Grade: A

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Blanton's Red Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $150
- 93 Proof
- Barrel No. 85
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles that I've kept on my shelf for longer than I ever intended to. On Thanksgiving I finally decided that, after three years, it was time to finally finish off this bottle. Even then I still had some hesitation.

This was one of (if not the) first bottles I've ever purchased on secondary market. And that's only because, short of travelling to Japan, that was the only way I was getting a bottle. And once I had it, it became one of those bottles that was just fun to break out when company was over. Even the most casual bourbon drinker would have fun not only having some Blanton's, but having Blanton's that came from a red box with Japanese writing all over it. I write this all with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, of course, but it really was a fun one to break out from time to time, and so I rarely poured a glass while sitting on my couch any given night of the week.

The nose had that typical brown sugar, caramel and cinnamon combination that I usually get from the Buffalo Trace mashbill #2. Nothing really unexpected here, thought the caramel sweetness did at times lean more towards a darker molasses note. There was surprisingly a light woodiness to it as well.  I've never gotten indications of age with Blanton's before, but I certainly did on this one. 

The flavor was rich and sweet, and again right in line with my expectations. I got loads of brown sugar and caramel sweetness. It had almost a cookie-like quality to it in the flavor. There was also a sort of bread note, like a sweet bread, but definitely a bit of that yeast/grain note. 

What stood out, though, was the nice nuttiness that it had. Perhaps that's what I interpreted as a wood note on the nose, but it tasted like candied pecans and pie crust. Basically a pecan pie but without the goo.  That pecan note was accompanied by a boozy note, giving it almost a bourbon soaked pecan flavor, which I guess makes a lot of sense.

The body on this was fairly watery, more so than I've experienced in other bottles of Blanton's. Unfortunately, that led to a very short-lived finish. What was there on the finish were the caramel and brown sugar notes, and the vanilla seemed to come through a bit more. What wasn't there, though, was any sort of spice. The cinnamon from the nose was pretty nonexistent, particularly on the finish. 

All in all, this was a fun bottle to have on my shelf, but it didn't offer anything more than your standard bottle of Blanton's. I'm glad I tried it, but I won't be seeking any more of these out on the secondary market.

Grade: B

Friday, November 26, 2021

Old Forester Barrel Strength Single Barrel Rye Whiskey

- $90
- 128.2 Proof
- Whse. G, Fl. 3
- Kentucky

One thing that I've loved about the various barrel strength Old Forester bourbons that I've been lucky enough to come across is that they are a bolder and better version of Old Forester 100 proof for the most part, of course with variations from barrel to barrel. Certainly you pay a bit more, and they're not easy to find, but they deliver what you want out of such a product.

It wasn't that long ago that Old Forester released it's standard expression rye whiskey. That is a very nicely priced, and very delicious rye. However, I found it to be on the softer and the sweeter end of the rye whiskey spectrum. So when I found out about the release of the single barrel rye bottled at barrel strength, I wasn't sure exactly what I'd be getting, whether it'd just be a bolder and better version of their standard rye, or something very different. Well, I found it to be very different, though very good as well!

The nose was quite pungent, bull of rich and spicy cinnamon as well as a bold cherry note, like Maraschino cherries. There was a pastry note as well that leaned toward a cherry Danish aroma. I also got a little bit of anise or black licorice that added that sort of tangy quality you get from anise.  It also had some black pepper spice to it as well.  

The flavor was bold and punch, and it reminded me nothing of the standard Old Forester rye. This was a super cherry-forward rye. In fact, I got more cherry on this than I can ever recall getting from any other whiskey--rye, bourbon or otherwise. As the kids would say, this was a "cherry bomb." It wasn't that fake candy cherry, but it also wasn't that fresh-picked cherry note. It was more of a Luxardo cherry, dark and rich and almost syrupy.

I also got a light licorice note, much like I noticed on the nose. The cinnamon was there as well, along with a sweet caramel note. At times I noticed a sort of base layer of vanilla, but that note seemed to get crowded out fairly quickly.

On the finish, what I noticed most was the lack of alcohol burn. This rye came in at a pretty healthy proof, but it was far from a burner. Of course the pervasive cherry note was prominent on the finish as well, but that seemed to pair with a black pepper note and that caramel note to really leave a rich, slightly sweet and spicy finish.

This was one of the bolder and more punchy whiskeys I've had in a while, and what stood out the most was that strong cherry note. I have no idea why there was so much cherry influence here, but it was unmistakable.  I do wish it had a bit more going on, that other flavors were allowed some room inside as well. But, what was there was delicious and bold and, again, nothing like the standard Old Forester rye.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Sagamore Spirit Distiller's Select Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Armagnac Casks

- $80
- 113 Proof
- 4 years
- Finished 3 years, 1 month
- Indiana

This is one of those bottles that somehow went under the radar at least among the social media community of bourbon lovers/chasers.  That said, among my personal group of bourbon-loving friends, everyone who has tried this bottle has loved this bottle, has purchased their own bottle, and in a few cases, purchased multiple backups. 

This is a 4 year MGP rye that Sagamore then finished in Armagnac barrels. Now, that in and of itself is not novel or any reason to bat an eye. What's unique about this rye is the incredible length of time that it sat finishing in those Armagnac barrels. Usually I see barrels finished for anywhere from 3 months to 9 months. This one, though, was finished for 3 years and 1 month! That's an incredibly long finishing period, but here, it paid off!!

The nose was full of rich notes of molasses and raisin and dates. It also had a bread-like note to it, as well as an earthy, nutty note to it. It kind of reminded me of pecan pie (a must have at any Thanksgiving meal in my household).  There was also a light cinnamon spice to it, telling me that the rye wasn't completely buried by the Armagnac finish, and was still able to stand up on its own.

The Armagnac finish was immediately noticeable from the first sip. That influence was strong, but not overly done by any means. It was just as nutty and rich as the nose would indicate. I got the figs and raisins that I got off the nose, along with that nutty note. In a way it reminded me of bread pudding.

I also got that pecan pie note that I got off the nose. However, the sweet element wasn't so much of a molasses note, but rather sweet honey and caramel. Again, I feel like this is where the rye still held its own despite the extra-long finishing period. It even had a graham cracker flavor to complement those sweet notes and really round out that pecan pie note.

There was also the lightest salinity that I noticed, and when paired with the rich raisin and fig notes, reminded me a bit of bacon-wrapped dates. It sounds weird, but if you've ever had bacon wrapped dates, they have a sweet and rich and salty quality to them that makes for an amazing appetizer. As weird as it seems, I got a bit of that here, and it was delicious!

This rye also had a nice, oily texture which provided for a long finish that coated my mouth in those same rich, dark fruit notes. The fig and raisin was there, but there was also a sort of bright and flavorful blackberry note that came through. That was complemented by that cinnamon spice in a way that had me diving back for each next sip.

I wish I had been wise and purchased as many bottles of this stuff as I could. Unfortunately I'm not finding it anywhere any more. This was fantastic, and that extra long finishing did everything right by what was likely a very solid MGP rye to begin with.

Grade: A+

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Scotch Malt Whiskey Society Black Oak 8 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

- $95
- 100 Proof
- 8 years
- Speyside

For the past year I've enjoyed a membership to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a Christmas present I received last year. Well, "enjoyed" might not be the right word, as I actually haven't really purchased much through them. I find the bottles are certainly on the higher end from a price standpoint, shipping is also expensive, and each bottle seems to take forever to ship. So I really haven't taken advantage of the membership like I thought I would.

However, I did jump at the opportunity to purchase this particular bottle when it came around. While the distillery isn't disclosed, this is an 8 year Speyside single malt that was aged in first fill ex-bourbon barrels, and then "married" in Gascon black oak barrels that formally held Armagnac. I can't say I've had an Armagnac finished Scotch before, which is primarily what compelled me to purchase this particular bottle.

The nose was full of rich brown sugar and baking spices. It had a bit of nutmeg and a light not of cinnamon to it. There was a healthy amount of sweet tobacco leaf that seemed to pair with a candied orange note that I really enjoyed.  There was something else, though, that was bright and crisp but odd and out of place. It was a sort of melon note that was fleeting but kept coming back.

As to flavor, my first note was that it wasn't strong in flavor at all.  It was subtle and delicate. Given that my only experience with Armagnac finishes has been finished bourbons or ryes, I attributed it to that more than anything. But, I did wish I got more of the Armagnac influence than I did. That was what I came for, after all, but it just wasn't there. 

This whisky did have some bright notes of peach and pear, and later on I was getting delicious notes of apricot. This was all layered over a light brown sugar sweetness as well as a honey note. In fact, I even got a bit of orange marmalade at times.

In addition to those brighter, sweet fruit notes, I got something bready, almost like a spice cake. That, paired with the fruit notes, gave it a sort of baked peach flavor as well. It was rich, sweet and spicy all at once.  

However, it remained light and subtle in flavor, and I wished these flavors were a bit more bold. That would have provided for a bit more complexity.  I also wished that the Armagnac influence were more present. That is really where this one disappointed a bit.

Grade: B-

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Russell's Reserve Binny's Private Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Barrel No. 21-0888

- $60
- 110 Proof
- 8 1/2 years
- Barrel No. 21-0888
- Warehouse F
- Kentucky

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Russell's Reserve picks are always a must-buy for me whenever I see them!  As far as setting the bar, I've never had one that has been less than what I would consider "really good," and I have had some absolutely phenomenal bottles. I do happen to love Wild Turkey bourbon to start, but for some reason, I have never even come close to a clunker of a store pick on the Russell's Reserves.

It's been a while since Binny's has had some of these come in. I think prior to this one being released, there was one barrel that was released a couple months prior, which I never saw. Prior to that, I have no idea how long it had been. So I jumped at the opportunity of grabbing this one.

On the nose I got a bold, sweet and spicy mix of cinnamon and cherry. It also had some chocolate notes to it as well that, mixed with the alcohol fumes, gave it a sort of cherry cordial note. It also had a richness to it, as I was getting candied pecans, maple syrup, and even a bit of allspice.

The flavor leaned more towards the rich notes from the than the cherry notes. Cinnamon and nutmeg were the most forward notes. Backing those flavors was a creamy and sweet kind of nougat note along with a rich caramel note. Together it absolutely reminded me of a Milky Way candy bar, but without being sugary sweet.

It certainly leaned more sweet than spicy, though, with a little more sweetness than I get out of regular Russell's Reserve. However, there was still a soft and warm cinnamon spice as well as a nutty note that helped keep it balanced and from going over the edge into being too sweet.

The finish was interesting as there it turned to more of a cola flavor. The caramel notes really stuck around for quite a while after each sip. Eventually the cherry from the nose came through on the finish as well, and the finish had a certain Dr. Pepper quality. There was also something bright and almost citrusy on the finish, kind of like a bright orange note.

The best indicator of how much I like a whiskey is how fast I finish the bottle.  Of course there are some that are amazing, but that I hold onto and milk a bit due to rarity or sentimental value. But, for everything else, it's clear that I love a bottle when I finish it within a week of opening it, and that was the case here. I just kept going back to it because it was just so delicious. I only wish I had more!

Grade: A

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Buck 8 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $30
- 90 Proof
- 8 years
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles that I'm sure I've looked at on the shelf and didn't give a second thought at least a dozen times. Let's be honest here, the name of the brand itself doesn't exactly scream "Buy me!" Simply "Buck" lacks any sort of draw to the label. And the label design doesn't help either. The relatively monotone label with a monochromatic picture of a horse "bucking" made it really easy to pass on this whiskey over and over again.

But, one day my trusted local liquor store manager recommended this whiskey to me, completely unsolicited. Now, under certain circumstances, that may just be a ploy to sell some slow-moving product. But, that wasn't the case here. He gave me tasting notes that tole me he genuinely backed his recommendation. On top of that, this is still an 8 year old whiskey, out of Kentucky and bottled by independent bottler Frank-Lin Distillers. I'm not sure where it's sourced from, but I figured it could only be so bad, and it only cost me $30 to find out.

The nose had those traditional notes of caramel and cinnamon. What set it apart, however, was a nice peach note, almost like a peach tea. It also had a wheat note that reminded me of the smell of wheat bread, even with that yeast note to it.

The cinnamon certainly crossed over to the palate. But, it wasn't that spicy cinnamon that I'm used to in my bourbon. Rather, it was sweet and backed by a distinct cereal note. In fact, in my notes I wrote down that it reminded me a bit of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. There was just a touch of spice up front, but it wasn't a cinnamon spice. Rather, it was more along the lines of a black pepper spice that I noticed right on the tip of my tongue.

I still got that peach note that I got on the nose, which was nice. The cereal note persisted as well, but in later pours it was more crackery, kind of like wheat thins. It also had some nice vanilla notes that seemed to become more prominent with each pour.

The finish was interesting in that it seemed to go a whole different direction. There I got a light citrus note--not quite lemon or orange, but somewhere in between. I also got some notes of banana as well as cherry pie filling. That sweetness was tempered a bit by the black pepper spice that finished it all off.  The finish sort of threw me a curveball, as the flavors there seemed to almost come out of nowhere.

For $30, it was well worth it to take a flyer on this bourbon. It was tasty, fun and interesting, even if the flavors didn't quite seem to complement each other, and even if it was a bit grain forward. I'd certainly recommend that you give it a go, particularly for the price, and ignore the unappealing (to me) label.

Grade: B

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Old Forester Gold Eagle Wine & Spirits Single Barrel Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $85
- 125.3 Proof
- 6.5 years
- Kentucky

Certain liquor stores in the Chicagoland area not named Binny's have managed to make a name for themselves as far as having good whiskey selections and getting good store picks. Antioch Liquors is one of those stores that's on my short list of places that I need to check out. But, it's way up north from me and not really on my way to much of anything, so unless I'm making a separate trip, I have no reason to head that way. And so it remains on my short list.

However, I saw a Facebook post a while back that they got these Old Forester single barrel picks in. Luckily for me, I have a buddy who lives in the area and was kind enough to run over there, pretty much at the drop of a dime, just to grab one of these bottles for me.  What's funny is he was told the owner had to put some bottles in back because a bunch of people from Wisconsin came looking for them. This, apparently, was one of those bottled tucked in back.

The nose on this one was a bit corn forward and sweet. It had a bit of a corn syrup note to it. It also has something rich and almost tangy, like amaretto with a light cinnamon note. It also had a sort of sawdust note and even a slight yeasty smell to it. It reminded me of a cinnamon pastry, perhaps like a cinnamon roll but without the icing.

I realize as I typed that out that it isn't the greatest sounding nose. That's fair. But, it's the flavor that really matters, and here, the flavor was pretty spot on.  I got this bright, almost sour cherry note. It was that natural cherry as opposed to the fake cherry note that I get sometimes and really don't enjoy.

That sour cherry note was balanced out by a brown sugar sweetness. It also had a cinnamon note that reminded me of cloves, but sweeter. There was also a light char note to this bourbon, which only further supported that cloves note with that added char/smoky quality.

The finish was almost all amaretto. I was wondering where that was from the nose, and on the finish it made its appearance. It was rich and spicy, with a sweet tanginess that I absolutely loved. It even had that sort of almond extract flavor to it, which is a flavor I happen to love, though I know is not for everyone.

This was a very complex, interesting and tasty bourbon. The sawdust on the nose and sour cherry up front were certainly . . . different. But, they weren't bad by any means and added a layer of complexity and made for an interesting pour. I really enjoyed this, and I may need to send my mule-buddy for more of their picks!

Grade: B+

Monday, November 1, 2021

Carl T. Huber's Fox Valley Whiskey Society Single Barrel Bourbon Finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels


- $80
- 115.2 Proof
- 4 1/2 years
- Barrel No. FB092-2
- Indiana

This is the second private barrel pick I've grabbed from the Fox Valley Whiskey Society, the first being a Sonoma Distilling Rye. Admittedly, I was significantly more excited for this particular pick.  I've pretty much loved everything coming out of Starlight Distillery. They've been in the distilling game longer than most people realize, and it shows in their product.

I tend to be more partial to their rye. It really hits all the right notes as far as what I like in a spicy and right rye. But, I've learned that I love their bourbons as well. So when the opportunity came for a privately selected barrel of their bourbon that was finished in cabernet sauvignon barrels, I was all for it!  While I haven't really found a cabernet-finished bourbon yet that I've fallen in love with, I figured if there was one that might, it'd be this one.

As would be expected from a Cabernet finished bourbon, the nose was full of rich, dark fruit. I got notes of plum and fig, maybe even a bit of blueberry. However, the bourbon also really stood out, as the caramel and even a bit of vanilla shone through just as well, though without the usual sweetness.

However, the flavor was certainly sweeter than expected, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I've always found that Cabernet finishes could benefit from a bit more sweetness. Here, those fruit notes really provided that.  I got a lot of blackberry on this one. Rather than the rich fig notes, this was a brighter, sweeter note.

I also got some blueberry notes and even a grape note. It had that jammy flavor, but without that overt sweetness that I always associate with that word "jammy."  

Much like the nose, it had plenty of those toffee and caramel notes as well. I didn't get much vanilla, but that rich toffee, along with a light milk chocolate note, had the whole thing feeling like some sort of blackberry Heath bar, which isn't a thing but really should be.

On the finish I got a bit of a peppery spice--the only time that any spice really seemed to kick in. It also had a tannic note to it, which was okay given that the "jammy" notes seemed to be kicked up on the finish and needed that balance. Those sweet fruit notes came on strong on the finish, with the plum reappearing as well as a rich and sweet cherry pie filling note.

This was an adventure of a whiskey, and it was probably the best cabernet-finished bourbon I've ever had.  It had just that little bit of added sweetness that I've found others lacking, and yet it never got too sweet, which I appreciated.  This was an excellent pick by the Fox Valley Whiskey Society!

Grade: A-