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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Copper & Cask The Wry Canadian 15 Year Cognac Cask-Finished Single Barrel Canadian Whisky

VITALS:
- $80
- 118 Proof
- 15 Years
- Canada

This release was certainly an intriguing one to me. I've enjoyed the couple of Copper & Cask single barrel ryes that I've tried so far. However, this release was something much different. The Wry Canadian is a 15 year Canadian whiskey that was aged in a second-use Cognac barrel that had previously been used to age rye. So, it's a well-aged Canadian whisky that is going to have additional influence not only from the Cognac cask, but also from the rye that had previously been aged in the same barrel. 

With all that going on, including the fact that it's a single barrel product bottled at cask strength, the $80 price tag certainly seemed reasonable enough. I don't exactly have my thumb on the Canadian whisky market, but compared to well-aged American whiskey, this would be a steal.

On the nose I got a significant amount of brown sugar. That note completely dominated anything else I was getting.  I did get some other behind-the-scene notes, including a bit of black licorice and even a little bit of cinnamon, but otherwise I might as well have shoved my nose into a cannister of brown sugar.

As to flavor, that brown sugar sweetness was, not unexpectedly, prominent right up front. It hit me as a sweeter whisky right away.  However, at least as to the palate, that brown sugar was accompanied by other notes, one of which was a distinct maple syrup note.  It also had a certain bready quality to it, kind of like a sweet bread along the lines of a King's Hawaiian roll.

On the finish, a great spicy kick seemed to come out of nowhere. It was a great combination of cinnamon and cayenne pepper, providing some heat and a nice tingle on my tongue and the back of my throat. Of course the sweet brown sugar notes remained, but that sweet and spicy balance was really delicious!

In the end, this is still a Canadian whisky, and that brown sugar note is a common theme I tend to find in most Canadian whiskies. I wish the Cognac played more of a role here, but at least the Rye cask had a decent influence, throwing in some nice spice at the end. I don't know that I'd say this was great, but it was worth the price of admission in my mind, as I did really enjoy it.

Grade: B

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Old Forester Binny's Private Selection Barrel Strength Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:

- $70
- 130.4 Proof
- NAS
- Whse. I, Fl. 5
- Kentucky

This is possibly the longest time that I've had a single bottle of whiskey open. I always keep notes in my notes app on my phone, so I know which ones have been open the longest, because those are the notes that are entered first. This one has been at the top of my notes for a very long time. And really, the only reason is that I just didn't want it to be gone. I've been just sitting on those last few pours, but on a whim last night I decided this is what I wanted.

For a moment there, it seemed these Old Forester barrel strength single barrels were at least semi-available. I remember getting a couple from two different stores within days of each other.  And then that was it. I haven't come across any more of these since then, which perhaps is partly why I held onto this one for so long.

The nose was a rich and sweet dessert, very much like a pecan pie or even a turtle bar. It had notes of chocolate and pecan, as well as a sweet maple syrup note to it. It had a bit of a pastry note as well as some rich caramel. I even got some root beer notes off it at times.

As to flavor, my first note was that it was "warm and inviting."  I no longer know what I meant by that when I typed that note, but this is a very delicious and warming bourbon that packs a punch with heat, but not overly so. 

The pecan pie that I got on the nose very much carried through on the palate. It had that nuttiness to it, the rich caramel-like flavor of the goo in the middle of the pie, and even a bit of sweet pie crust to it. Pecan pie is one of my favorite desserts, and for that reason alone I absolutely loved this whiskey. There was also this consistent chocolate note, somewhere between dark chocolate and milk chocolate, that seemed to underscore everything else, almost as a base layer, adding just a touch more richness and sweetness to everything.

On the finish, aside from that warm pecan pie note, I also got a sort of a cooked cherry flavor, dark and rich, and spiced up a bit with some cinnamon, or even cloves, as well as a bit of black pepper.  I have no idea as to the age of this whiskey (I'm guessing 6-8 years), but it also had a bit of an oak note, which provided a sort of drying, tannic quality on the finish.

I've heard people refer to whiskey's as "dessert whiskeys" before, and while I don't tend to use that term, I think here it applies, mainly because it so much reminded me of one particular dessert. I couldn't get past it, which was just fine with me, because I loved every sip.

Grade: A

Monday, September 12, 2022

Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Batch 01/03

VITALS:
- $170
- 125.6 Proof
- NAS
- Batch 01/03
- Kentucky

This is one of my favorite purchases I can recall.  When these came out, I honestly knew very little about them. I didn't read any of the press releases, and I really hadn't paid any attention to reviews. One day, however, they hit my store and my guy gave me a call and asked if I wanted one. I honestly didn't know if I did or not, and I certainly second-guessed the price given the lack of any age statement.

But, at that point I started doing my homework. I learned that there were three different batches of the 150th anniversary, each blended from a batch of about 50 barrels and each batch being blended to its own, unique profile. This particular batch, Batch 01/03 was blended to achieve more of a rich, spicy, dark fruit-forward profile, which sounded absolutely incredible. So, I was sold, and I called him back to hold my spot for one.  After I purchased my bottle, I invited him to my office after work, where he and I were both completely wowed by this bottle!

The nose absolutely hit that as-described profile. I immediately got notes of chocolate and walnut. There was also a dark cherry note on the nose, almost like a Luxardo cherry. I also got a decent amount of rich oak, but without any of those bitter tannic notes.

The flavor was a rich and decadent mix of dark fruits, including dark cherry and blackberry, which all seemed to commingle with a rich (yes, I'm using that word a lot here) dark chocolate note. It tasted like a dessert you might order at a very fancy and very expensive restaurant.

Despite its proof, the heat on this bourbon was very minimal, yet it absolutely maintained a nice, thick viscosity.  Accordingly, what heat that was there was well-balanced by a rich, molasses like sweetness. That sweet and dark note paired with the constant dark fruit notes only further led to that super expensive dessert experience.

The finish provided a bit of a peppery spice to go along with the dark cherry, and thanks to the high proof, those two notes, which went great together, also stuck around for a really long time. In fact, it felt as though I had just eaten a bourbon-soaked cherry and that flavor just lingered. It was kind of like eating the Luxardo cherry after finishing an Old Fashioned, only more bourbon-soaked.

This is one of the best bottles I've enjoyed in a long time. For a while I was saving the last few pours, and then I decided that I couldn't bear it any more, and family movie night became as good an excuse as any to polish this off. And I'm so glad I did, because this was an absolutely amazing bourbon.

Grade: A+

Saturday, September 10, 2022

1792 Binny's Single Barrel Select Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Barrel #7147

VITALS:
- $45
- 100 Proof
- 4 Years
- Barrel #7147
- Kentucky

With so many different store picks available these days, particularly at stores like Binny's where they are getting 6-10 barrels at a time for some products, I find myself passing on store picks far more than I used to. In fact, under normal circumstances, there's a good chance I would have passed on this particular bottle. That's not due to the fact that it doesn't interest me, just more to the fact that there are so many other bottles out there that interest me more.

However, one of the guys that went on the trip to pick this barrel, among others, suggested that this was one of the better barrels he tasted during the trip, and that if I could find one I should definitely grab it. And so, taking his sage-like advice, when I did come across one, I made sure to bring it home with me.

On the nose I got a lemon grass note right away, which was unexpected. That paired with a bit of an orange peel note as well, providing some vibrancy as well as a touch of bitterness. Those bright notes seemed to be immediately followed by a rich, sweet caramel, as well as a sweet pastry note. The smell on this was great, even if a bit different. 

The flavor profile on this one was interesting in that it seemed to completely change part way through. At first I wasn't the biggest fan. It came across as very herbal forward, almost grassy in flavor (but not the bright lemongrass note I got on the nose). There was also a musty, dusty quality to it. Behind all that was a sort of peanut note as well, and the combination of all of these notes just had a sort of herbal, stale peanut thing going.

However, at some point part way through the bottle the profile seemed to change, and significantly so. That herbal note seemed to almost go away entirely, and even that dusty note became more subdued. Instead, I got soft and sweet notes, with vanilla and maple, and even sweet pastry notes. It reminded me of the maple glaze you would get on a donut.

On the finish, that maple sweetness really seemed to stick around. However, on earlier pours it seemed to compete with that pervasive herbal note. Luckily, that herbal note disappeared on the finish on later pours as well.  There was also a light medicinal cherry note on the finish that seemed to stick in the back of my throat. It was interesting, but I'm not sure I was fond of it. 

This Jekyl and Hyde bottle was certainly better in later pours than earlier pours. At first I wasn't so sure I liked it, but at the end I found myself reaching for it over and over until it was gone. It was really kind of a weird bottle in that way.

Grade: B

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Blanton's Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Barrel No. 016

VITALS:
- $80
-93 Proof
- NAS
- Barrel No. 016
- Kentucky

It's been a while since I've gone back to Blanton's.  In fact, this bottle hit Binny's shelves sometime in 2020, and I just now got around to finishing it. I can't exactly say for sure why. Perhaps I grew tired of Blanton's (not likely). Perhaps there was just always something new to try (more likely). Either way, I went a pretty good amount of time before going back to this bottle.

But, a couple weeks ago I got it in my that I could use some old reliable mashbill #2, and I reached for this Binny's store pick that I got a few years back. In fact, by this point I had kind of forgotten whether this was a standout or not, or even what kind of profile it had. It was kind of fun, actually, revisiting it with no recall of my impressions before.

On the nose I got a slight aroma of charred wood. Weirdly, though, it came across as sweet, almost a sugary char, kind of like the char you get from burnt barbecue sauce when you grill.  I also got a nice cinnamon note as well as some brown sugar. There was also a pastry-like pie-crust note to this as well, and it all came together as a very dessert-like nose.

I did not, however, get any of that char note on the palate. Rather, the backbone here was caramel and cinnamon. There was also a sort of unsweetened vanilla layer underscoring everything, but the sweetness came from those caramel notes.

There was also something jammy to this, with notes of rich, dark fruits like raisin and raspberry, and maybe even some fig. There was also a sort of chocolate covered pretzel note to it, with a sweet, chocolatey flavor along with a salty cracker-like note. This combo of the dark fruits and the chocolate covered pretzel was pretty awesome.

On the finish, I got more of that cracker note, and perhaps even a bit of a cereal note. It definitely became grain forward, as what little spice seemed to disappear, and even the sweetness was fleeting. This came across as more of a watery mouthfeel than other Blanton's I've had, and it led to almost no lingering finish whatsoever.

Give this barrel some proof and some viscosity, and it's amazing! The flavor combinations were fantastic, but it just came across as thin and watery, not allowing me to really savor those flavors like I wanted to.

Grade: B

Friday, September 2, 2022

Proof and Wood The Stranger Polish Rye Whiskey

VITALS:
- $65
- 105 Proof
- 7 Years
- Poland/Kentucky

Ever had a whiskey that sounds more like a solo sex act? Well, now I can say I have! There was a lot about this bottle that interested me, including the innuendo in the name, whether intentional or not. I don't have any experience with Polish rye whiskey, so that along had me interested. Throw in that it was aged in ex-bourbon and ex-rye barrels for seven years, and I knew I had to give it a try.

Proof and Wood has been putting out some decent stuff lately, at least what I've had. So, at $65, I knew I wanted to give this one a chance. After all, I haven't met many ryes that I haven't liked. And considering I'm usually just drinking my whiskey by myself on my couch, a whiskey called "The Stranger" just seemed apropos.

The nose was full of rich spice. I got a lot of cinnamon stick, as well as a rich dark chocolate note behind it. I did get a bit of pecan, as well as something pastry-like, perhaps like a pie crust. Interestingly, I also got a decent amount of oak, which carried with it those bitter tannic notes.

The flavor was interesting and certainly different than most ryes I've tried, and yet very enjoyable. I got a very healthy dose of pine and resin up front. It certainly had a bit of an earthy, musty and dusty quality to it. There was even a slight char note that I really enjoyed.

The cinnamon spice was certainly there as well. This was definitely on the spicier end of the spectrum. That cinnamon spice at times seemed to become more of a cloves note, and there was also something a bit more biting, kind of like a ginger note.

There was a rich sweetness behind all of these note, like a molasses flavor. That carried with it a cherry note that combined to make a sort of spiced, candied cherry note. That notes seemed to carry through on the finish, along with some of the oak that I was getting on the nose (but without the tannins) and a bit of peppery spice to finish it off.

Like I said above, this was on the spicier end of the spectrum, which I appreciated. However, there were rich, flavorful notes behind that spice that made this really bold but really enjoyable! I may have to give Polish rye another try!

Grade: B+

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ardbeg Uigeadail Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

VITALS:
- $80
- 108.4 Proof
- NAS
- 2020
- Islay

I've kept no secret about the fact that I love the mix of peat and wine, particularly when that peated scotch is aged in sherry or port casks. Something about that smoky flavor mixed with the rich berry notes I get from those fortified wines just hits right.

So, it was a must that I try Ardbeg's Uigeadail. Not only is it known for its heavy smoke notes, but also the prominent sherry cask notes. It has a reputation as big and strong and bold, but also as being absolutely delicious. This was one I knew I had to try for myself, even if I had no clue how to pronounce it (and still don't). 

The nose was an absolute smoke bomb on this. The peat absolutely dominated over just about every other note. With some effort, though, I was able to get some other aromas, including a yeasty wheat bread note. There was a certain mustiness or even a mossiness to it, like a damp forest. I also got something bright on the nose, however, like a rich blackberry note.

Of course, the peat smoke was front and center on the flavor.  No question about it, and it was very campfire-like.  However, immediately behind that was a strong and bright raspberry note from the sherry cask. It was such a sharp but inviting contrast to that smoky flavor.

The sherry added more depth than that, though, also providing notes of plum and currant.  Along with that I did get that sort of musty note, but musty night not be the right word. It reminded me of the way the air tastes when the sun comes out after a rain. That sounds very hippie-ish, I know, but that's what I was getting. There was also a touch of salinity to it, as though it was sea air I was tasting.

The finish was phenomenal, giving off this bright and jammy raspberry sweetness that lingered forever. There was also a bit of maltiness to it, giving off a note of sweet crackers with raspberry jam. I absolutely loved it! Of course the peat smoke carried through here as well, though it seemed a bit more subdued by the time it got to the finish.

I think what I loved the most about this was that it wasn't that normal barbecue sauce type flavor I often get with that mix of peat and wine. Rather, it had those two distinct notes of peat and bright raspberry, which each held their own but completed each other incredibly. This is an incredible whisky!

Grade: A

Monday, August 22, 2022

Copper & Cask SavWay Fine Wine & Spirits Single Barrel Selection Straight Rye Whiskey

VITALS:
- $45
- 109.2 Proof
- 6 Years
- Indiana

Prior to buying this bottle, I hadn't had anything from Copper & Cask out of Rhode Island. A few buddies of mine have picked up bottles and, while they might not necessarily have raved about them, certainly indicated it was good stuff, at least the rye anyway.  Admittedly, I haven't heard much about their bourbons.

And when I say "their" rye, I mean their sourced rye. This is, of course, MGP rye, with the traditional 95/5 rye mashbill.  What made this an easy buy, though, was the fact that this is cask strength, single barrel 6 year MGP rye. Other distilleries are bottling this stuff and putting it on the shelves for close to twice the price. So, this was an easy grab for me off the shelf.

On the nose I got a light oak note along with some sweet caramel notes right away. That gave way to vanilla, with a black pepper spice to follow.  I did get a bit of a dill note, as well as a touch of mint, both of which I've come to expect from MGP ryes. But, they certainly weren't strong notes, and it was that vanilla and black pepper that took center stage.

When I took my first sip, though, it seemed the first things I noticed were that dill and mint. There was no question that this was MGP rye right away. It also had a spicy cinnamon note, rather than black pepper.  And the caramel note seemed a bit darker and richer, more like a toffee note.

This rye had something odd to it, however. There was a distinct coppery note to it. Kind of like that flavor left over after having pennies in your mouth.  I'm pretty sure this is more relatable than it sounds, right?  I also got a lot of vanilla coinciding with that copper note, and there was also something funky, almost like pine resin. This whiskey got a little weird in the middle.

The finish was dominated by a long-lasting vanilla note, as well as a bit of spearmint. This was particularly pronounced in the last few pours I enjoyed, and both flavors stuck around for quite a while. Meanwhile, that coppery note was luckily nowhere to be found on the finish.

All in all a decent whiskey, but it just had something weird going on with that copper note, and it was one of those things that once you noticed it, it was all you could notice.

Grade: B-

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Blaum Bros. 5 Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Cognac Puncheon

VITALS:
- $80
- 108
- 5 yrs.
- Illinois

I do love Blaum Bros. distillery. Of course their sourced product, Old Fangled Knotter Bourbon, was absolutely phenomenal bourbon.  Unfortunately, much of that is long gone. I have also enjoyed their ryes, and I do make it a point to support local distilleries.

So, when I was offered an 5 year age-stated bourbon from Blaum Bros. that was finished in Cognac casks, I really couldn't turn it down, even if it was a bit steep at $80.  I can't help it, I'm a sucker for those Cognac finishes in the first place, and I definitely wanted to give their Blaum Bros.' bourbon another try now that it has more age on it.

The nose had a certain woody and nutty note to it. It was like caramel and chocolate covered oak, with some peanut thrown in. Kind of like a Snickers, but instead of nougat it was a soft and chewable wood.  Okay, I'm stretching here, but it didn't really provide the fruit notes I expected from the Cognac, but rather seemed to come across as tannic with hints of sweet caramel and chocolate.

As to the flavor, it came across as a bit young and corn-forward.  The corn notes were inescapable and they provided for some sharp, rough edges on top of making it come across as hot.  The sweetness inside came across as a brown sugar note, and there was a bit of green apple underscoring everything.

The Cognac notes did come through here, where they were missing on the nose. Along with that green apple, I got some quite delicious notes of pear and melon. There was also a creamy vanilla note that accompanied these flavors.  Unfortunately, they didn't seem to match up very well with the brown sugar and corn notes I was getting right up front.

On the finish the brown sugar note seemed to last the longest. However, it was here that I got a mild, but off-putting tannic note adding a bit of bitterness that seemed to linger for a bit on the sides of my tongue.  

This was not my favorite offering from Blaum Bros. Whatever they were going for just never seemed to materialize. I'm all for the experimentation, though, and I hope they keep putting out new and interesting releases such as this.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Four Roses Single Barrel Binny's Private Selection Kentucky Straight Bourbon - OBSK

VITALS:
- $90
- 110.6 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel No. 10-2Q
- Kentucky

Recently Binny's got a couple rounds of Four Roses private picks in, with some having more age than others. While the price on these has gone up, and while it's become harder to find them with anything over 10 years of age, I've found that the quality of the bourbon inside has not changed. $90 does seem a little steep, but I was still willing to pay it for a 10 year, cask strength, age stated single barrel that was a known commodity.

I've had and reviewed all ten Four Roses recipes on this blog, so now I'm re-treading, and it's fun to look back at what I thought of this recipe the first time around. With respect to the OBSK recipe, however, it might not be a fair comparison, as that one was a gift shop exclusive selected by Brent Elliott. That one almost had to be really good as a matter of course.

The nose on this one was incredibly rich and sweet. I got delicious soft caramel notes as well as a rich chocolate note that made for a great combination. It also had a sort of bite to it, almost like an amaretto liqueur. There was also a sort of baked good notes, like the smell of a pecan pie baking in the oven. I could tell just from the smell that this was a great barrel!

The flavor was right in my wheelhouse as well.  Right up front I got all those great, sweet and rich notes of caramel and chocolate, as well as a bit of cinnamon heat. It tasted like some specialty chocolate treat you'd get at a sweets shop.

As more flavors seemed to come out, while I didn't necessarily get the pecan pie I got on the nose, it still came pretty close. I got a distinct candied pecan note, sweet and nutty. It didn't really come across as baked goods like a pie, but that was just fine by me, as this was delicious. The cinnamon even started to take on more of a cloves note, seemingly ramping up the richness.

The finish reminded me very much of an old fashioned. It was here that I got a rich cherry note that seemed to linger, along with a bright but slightly bitter note of orange peel. It still kept that spiciness as well, with the cinnamon notes providing heat long after I had swallowed.

I'm so glad I went back to this recipe, as this was one of my favorite Four Roses single barrels I can recall having. I can't wait for the next one now!

Grade: A

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $17
- 90 Proof
- 36 mos.
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles where I was way more excited to have found it than I really should have been.  After all, this is just a very young, somewhat low proof mashbill #2 from Buffalo Trace.  I've had other bourbons from this mashbill hundreds of times, and while I do love this mashbill, I really can't say that a 3 year old version was ever something I felt I really needed to try.

Yet, I was excited to come across this bottle for two very simple reasons. First, I can't find it in Illinois. I'm not sure of the distributional footprint on Ancient Ancient Age, but it does not include Illinois, and I've never seen it in any of the neighboring states on my travels. Second, it's only $17!!  I had to try it for that reason alone. After all, what if it's somehow amazing and I need to be stocking up every chance I get?  Probably not, but you never know.

My first impression of the nose was that it smelled young.  It came across as sharp and biting, with a certain vegetal quality that I liken to young whiskeys. However, it also had a good amount of brown sugar and cinnamon, and it came across as almost like a cinnamon sugar cookie. It had something a bit more earthy as well, almost leather-like. 

The flavor was a bit better than expected. While it still comes across as young, it lacked those rough edges that I was getting on the nose. It came across as softer and more cohesive. It was, however, certainly corn-forward, and as a result, was very sweet. 

I definitely got that sugar cookie note that I got on the nose, but in this instance the vanilla really seemed to come forward more. There was also a sweetness that took the form of a honey note, which, as far as sweet notes in whiskey go, I like the lean towards honey rather than cane sugar.

The sweetness carried through on the finish, but there a bit of a cinnamon bite came out as well. That vanilla note seemed to coat my mouth and the back of my throat as well for a nice finishing combo.

This bourbon was young, no question. However, it didn't get to the point where it tasted too young, if that makes sense. It wasn't offensively young, and the young qualities weren't off-putting. But, despite the price, I think I'd look for other options on the shelf.

Grade: C+

Monday, August 1, 2022

Jack Daniel's Triple Mash Bottled-In-Bond Blended Straight Whiskey

VITALS:

- $35
- 100 Proof
- 4 years
- Tennessee

When Jack Daniel's initially released two no bottled-in-bond expressions -- it's standard whiskey and this Triple Mash -- I didn't initially pick up both. Rather, I grabbed the standard expression and a friend of mined picked up the Triple Mash. It made sense, as we had planned that evening to then try them together.  At the time I enjoyed my pour of Triple Mash, and decided, for the price, I should go ahead and pick one up for myself.

But, by then they had all been cleared from the shelves. After a few weeks, the standard bottled-in-bond release began re-emerging on the shelves, and I thought that I had missed out on my one chance at getting the Triple Mash.  Patience is a virtue, as they say, and eventually while making a side-trip down the liquor aisle at Jewel, I was surprised to find it sitting on the shelf. So into the cart it went.

This "triple mash" is a blend of American malt whiskey, rye whiskey and Tennessee whiskey. So, given the presence of sweet malt as well as the sweet Tennessee whiskey, I was not at all surprised that the aroma was as sweet as expected. It was full of creamy, boozy caramel notes, with some light chocolate and even a bit of a bready note. The boozy note was a bit of a surprise, though, as this is certainly not a burner.

The flavor likewise matched my expressions. It had that sweet caramel note backed by a bit of a chocolate note. This was the backbone of this whiskey and lent to a sweeter profile. There was also a bit of a nutty quality, but a softer, sweeter note, kind of like a cashew note.

The rye did come through a bit, but it was somewhat muted. I got notes of cinnamon, but without any sweetness or any spicy kick. From the malt I did get a bit of a doughy, pastry like note, and the two combined reminded me of cinnamon rolls but without frosting. 

The one thing I found interesting, though, and which I didn't particularly enjoy, is that this came across as a young whiskey. It had that green apple type note to it that I often find in young, craft whiskeys that were bottled too soon. I don't know if it's one particular mash that resulted in this young note (my money would be on the American malt, if so), but that young quality, matched with the heightened sweetness of this whiskey, just didn't work for me all that much.

Friends have really enjoyed this bottle, in fact raved about it, and on my first pour I thought I really liked this new release. But, having sat with it for a while and gotten to know it, it's just not really for me. There's a real possibility I'm in the minority here. 

Grade: C+

Monday, July 25, 2022

Starlight Distillery Huber's Old Rickhouse Binny's Private Select Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Finished in Calvados Barrels

VITALS:
- $80
- 104.6 Proof
- 4.5 yrs
- Barrel No. 21-2128
- Indiana

Starlight has become one of those distilleries where I feel the need to grab just about any store pick that I see on the shelves. It has certainly become one of my go-to's for store picks. So, if I find myself in a random, unfamiliar liquor store and I'm trying to decide what, if anything, I want to grab, if Starlight is an option it's going in my basket.  Granted, I haven't really run into this scenario yet, but it kind of seems inevitable.

While it's certainly not an unfamiliar store to me, this particular single barrel rye from Binny's was finished in Calvados barrels. I've found that I generally like those brandy, Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados finishes, often imparting a variety of fruity notes, and in some instances certain nutty notes, that seem to really compliment the whiskey well.  So, this was an easy choice for me in bringing this bottle home.

The nose was interesting. I got a base layer of caramel, not unexpectedly, but I also got a decent amount of oak on the nose. That was surprising given the age. I also got a rich, dark chocolate note. And, instead of the brighter apple or pear notes I expected from the Calvados influence, I got a distinct fennel note. I honestly wasn't sure if I liked it or not, but I did find it intriguing.

The flavor provided much more in the way of rye influence. I got that healthy rye spice, with notes of dill and mint, and some cinnamon. Of course it had that layer of caramel, and even that dark chocolate I was getting on the nose came through.

This was, however, certainly a sweeter rye, and I think that's where the Calvados influence really came in. I didn't get a lot of fruit-forward notes, but I did get a sweet nougat note. In fact, that was one of the more dominant flavors in this bottle. Aside from that, I also got some nutmeg, and, while it wasn't as noticeable as it was on the nose, I definitely got that fennel note.

Where it was most noticeable was on the finish. That fennel note seemed to stick around, somewhere in the background, behind the notes of caramel and rye spice that also lingered. 

While I certainly enjoyed this bottle, it wasn't my favorite Starlight pick. It came across as somewhat odd, with some misplaced flavors that never seemed to completely connect. I liked it, but it fell flat in comparison to some of the other amazing single barrels I've had from Starlight.

Grade: B

Monday, July 18, 2022

Fox & Oden Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch 3

VITALS:

- $80
- 99 Proof
- 8-15 years
- Batch No. 3
- Indiana

I knew nothing about this bottle when it hit the shelves around here, and I hadn't even heard of Fox & Oden. Perhaps that's because the first two batches were Michigan-only releases.  I'm not sure if that's due to distribution issues or by choice, but it is what it is. Not only was this a new product on the shelves, but it's a 8-15 year blend of MGP bourbon. While the bottle does not indicate the percentages of the blend, I was still intrigued at the age on this whiskey.

I did some preliminary research, and the reviews all seemed positive, so, my interest piqued, I decided to go ahead and grab a bottle and give it a try. On the first sip, I knew it was a good bottle and I was satisfied with my purchase. After a few weeks, though, this bottle really opened up and turned into something fantastic, something that I couldn't keep my paws off of!

The nose carried all of those traditional bourbon notes, with rich vanilla and sweet caramel. It had a bit of a dark cherry note as well, though it was subtle. There was also an herbal note that stood out. I couldn't quite place my finger on what it is I was getting, but it was almost like thyme. It sounds weird, but I actually really enjoyed that note.

The flavor was a great combination of sweet and spice. The sweet came in the form of salted caramel and vanilla bean. That vanilla been really seemed to come forward more and more the longer this bottle remained open. I even got notes of milk chocolate, again which became more noticeable the longer this bottle was open.

The spice was very much a cinnamon stick type of spice. It wasn't sweet like cinnamon candy, and it didn't have that peppery spice that I get. Rather, it was more of a woody type of cinnamon spice that went perfectly with those sweet notes. There was even a peanut note to it, giving this all the makings of a great candy bar.

The finish seemed to re-focus on that vanilla bean note. It was a rich and almost velvety note that seemed to stick around in my mouth and the back of my throat forever. The cinnamon was there, but it was more subtle, and towards the end of the bottle the sweet caramel seemed to stick around for a bit more at the back of my throat.

If I graded this whiskey based on the first few pours, it probably would have been around a B+.  But, this is one of those bottles where it just kept getting better and better. The last half of this bottle was gone before I knew it, because I found myself just not wanting to drink anything else. This was an absolute surprise of a bottle, and I'm glad I decided to give it a go!

Grade: A

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Starlight Distillery Huber's Rickhouse Select Gift Shop Exclusive Single Barrel Indiana Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $60
- 114.6 Proof
- 4.5 years
- Barrel No. 16121
- Indiana

I certainly consider myself a fan of Starlight Distillery. I was introduced to them about four years ago, back when they had an ugly and very unassuming label, one that had never attracted my attention. But, on recommendation, I gave one of their single barrel ryes a try and thought it was absolutely delicious! Now they have all sorts of SKUs on the shelves and a pretty robust private barrel program out of which have come some absolutely incredible bottles of whiskey.

So, when I finally got the chance to visit the distillery and Huber's farm on my way back from Louisville a couple Summers ago, I went with the intention of buying whatever gift shop exclusive single barrels they had available. This is the last of what I purchased, sadly. But, on the brighter side, it gives me reason to make my way back there soon!

The nose was certainly more traditional, in that I got notes of vanilla and caramel or even burnt sugar right up front. It did have a bit of a cinnamon spice, perhaps at times more of a black pepper spice. There was also a bit of a wood note, but not really that deep oak note. It was more like the smell of fresh cut wood.

The flavor was good, albeit not very complex. It was caramel forward, but also had a significant amount of that burnt sugar flavor I got off the nose. There was a certain nutty quality to it as well, kind of like walnut, even with the slightly bitter parts from the shell.

On the finish the black pepper seemed to come through more, overtaking any cinnamon spice. I wouldn't have described this as a "spicy" bourbon until I got to that finish. It also had a good amount of brown sugar on the finish, as well as a light walnut note that lingered for a bit.

All the flavors were good, but it just came across as somewhat simple. I would have loved for the vanilla I got on the nose to come through in the flavor, or for some fruit-forward notes. But, I still enjoyed what was there, and once I opened it the bottle still wasn't long for this world.

Grade: B

Monday, July 11, 2022

Jack Daniel's Bonded Tennessee Whiskey

VITALS:
- $36
- 100 Proof
- 4 Years
- Tennessee

Excitement for Jack Daniel's releases seems to be at its highest these past couple years. With the limited annual releases, including their single barrel rye and the Coy Hill release, not to mention the 10 Year, Jack Daniel's has been cranking out some limited bottlings that bourbon fans have been actively hunted.

On the heals of Coy Hill, Jack Daniel's announced two releases in one -- a triple mash and this Bonded Tennessee Whiskey.  It's not clear to me whether these will be regular staples on the Jack Daniel's section of the whiskey shelves or not, but they might be given that after the initial wave of their release I'm now seeing these bottles fairly regularly on liquor store and grocery store shelves. If that's the case, then great! I'm all for more good, available whiskey appearing on shelves!

The nose was immediately and noticeably sweet.  I got a load of brown sugar, along with a somewhat more refined caramel note. I even got a vanilla note, but a very sweet vanilla note, reminding me of those vanilla wafer cookies. There was also a slight burnt sugar note, offering a touch of char on the nose.

Surprisingly, on my initial pours I didn't get any of that banana note that I've come to expect from Jack Daniel's products. I don't refer to that note negatively by any stretch, just more that it's characteristic of the brand. However, it did eventually make its way through, particularly on later pours. It wasn't that fake banana note, however, almost more like a cooked and caramelized banana.

It definitely had a lot of that sweetness that I got on the nose, though. I got that vanilla wafer note, and I certainly got a healthy amount of the brown sugar that I got on the nose. In fact, those two notes together were a fairly strong flavor in this bottle. 

The char came through as well, but more in the form of a toasted marshmallow.  This was particularly the case on the finish. In fact, the finish was the most interesting part about this bottle, as that's where I also got notes of cherry and toffee.  Even the last few pours left a distinct bananas foster note in the back of my throat.

If it were just the finish, this bottle would be a standout. But, ultimately it was just too much on the sweet end for me, and in that respect a bit one dimensional.  However, there's a lot to like there, and for some people this is definitely going to hit the right spot for them.

Grade: B-

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Warehouse C Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $80
- 100 Proof
- 10 Years
- Kentucky

The vaunted E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving limited release was released back in 2011, apparently bottled from barrels that survived a tornado that struck Warehouse C in 2006. This release was a few years before I started seriously getting into whiskey (I was probably drinking more wine at that time, which seems like ancient history at this point), so I certainly didn't land a bottle then, and I haven't tried a pour since either.

But, when this Warehouse C release was announced, I knew I really wanted to give it a try, if for no other reason than to understand the hype. I knew it wouldn't be the same thing, but still worth checking out in my estimation. So, when I got the call that my local store had one available for me to purchase, I felt very fortunate, and even more so once I actually tried the whiskey inside.

The nose was incredible from the start. Of course I got the traditional caramel and toffee notes, all layered over a lightly sweet vanilla. But, on top of those more typical notes, I got notes of candied orange, and even a chai tea note that I thought was great, particularly with the toffee and vanilla notes. 

The flavor really found its way right into my wheelhouse. This was very caramel forward, but not so much that it lacked balance. There was still plenty of room for a light-but-not-bitter oak note as well as a rich vanilla note, all of which complemented one another seamlessly.

While there was minimal spice up front, the finish certainly made up for it. Balanced with the sweetness of this bourbon was a spicy peppery note, as well as a light cloves note. There was a certain dark fruit richness on the finish as well, making me think of spiced dark cherry, or perhaps a less sweet Luxardo cherry. I didn't want that finish to end, and it had me diving back in for the next sip.

I never had the chance to try Warehouse C Tornado Surviving. Those who have tried it swear by it, and while the idea may seem a bit gimmicky (what effect could the fact that a barrel survived a tornado have on the flavor of the bourbon), perhaps there really is something to the bourbon being aged in Warehouse C, tornado or no tornado.

Grade: A

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Kirkland 24 Year Sherry Cask Finish Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

VITALS:
- $68
- 92 Proof
- 24 Years
- Speyside

On its face, this bottle is apparently a steal of a deal! I had heard murmurs about Costco selling a 24 year sherry finished Speyside Scotch, and I know in the past they've had some other very well-aged Scotches. But, when I wandered through the liquor aisle at Costco, which I do every time I'm there, I couldn't help but immediately grabbing one of these upon seeing it.

I mean, less than $70 for a 24 year old Scotch?!?!?  Throw in that it's matured in Sherry casks?!?!? That is a phenomenal value, without even taking a sip of the whiskey. Nowhere else are you going to find such age on a label and get it for less than $100, let alone only $70. In fact, I regret not buying a few more at that price, even if just to have them for gifts. But, I only grabbed the one, but I was very happy to have gotten the one I did.

The nose was all bright fruit.  I got a wave of raspberry and pomegranate, sweet and fragrant and bright. There was a light pepper spice on the nose as well, balancing perfectly with those bright raspberry notes. There was also a sweet crackery note on the nose, kind of like a graham cracker note.

Not unexpectedly, those bright fruits dominated right up front. After all, this whiskey spent 24 years getting to know those Sherry casks, so I knew this would be a fruit bomb. That raspberry dominated, but I also got a sweet and lightly tart cranberry note. Luckily, any tartness was balanced out by the sweet fruit notes as well as a natural honey sweetness.

Behind those Sherry notes I got a sweet tobacco leaf, providing a bit of earthiness while not diminishing its character. There was also a fleeting dried apricot note that I kind of wished were a bit more prevalent, and there was an underlying bread note, kind of like a hearty wheat bread.

The finish provided some much needed spice, with a mix of chili pepper and black pepper on the back end, lingering in my throat. But, make no mistake, that bright raspberry note continued to dominate throughout. 

While this was on the sweeter side for me, and while that raspberry note seemed at times to make this a one-trick pony, this was still absolutely delicious, and I frequently reached for this bottle when I wanted to scratch a particular itch. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out in that liquor aisle at Costco for any more of these well-aged releases at incredible prices!

Grade: B

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Cream of Kentucky Estate Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

VITALS:
- $70
- 100 Proof
- 4 Years
- Kentucky

I have never had any Cream of Kentucky products before. No real reason why, I guess.  It's produced by Kentucky Artisan Distillery, headed up by former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge. In fact, he puts his signature right on the front label. However, it tends to be fairly pricey, and while the reviews are generally pretty good, they haven't been so good that I felt the need to run to the store and immediately grab a bottle. 

However, they recently released this product, a bottled in bond rye whiskey, for a far more approachable $70. Now, is that over-priced for a four-year whiskey?  Yes, it sure is. However, it gave me an opportunity to try a Cream of Kentucky product and see for myself whether or not I like what they're doing. So, I went for it anyway.

On the nose I immediately got sweet and rich notes of chocolate and caramel. There were also some sweet pastry or yeast notes as well, reminding me a bit of a caramel glazed donut. It really did smell incredible, even if a bit on the sweeter end. 

Right away on the first sip I got a nice cinnamon spice, and the sweetness certainly came through as well.  It manifested itself in a sort of mix of burnt sugar and caramel, which I understand can be a fine line for any candy-maker.  There was also a light chocolate note, but not nearly as much as on the nose.

Unfortunately, immediately behind all that I got the overripe apple note that I always associate with too-young whiskey. Rye tends to hold up at younger ages, so I was kind of surprised to get this, but it came across as young and corny and just with that bitter, tangy overripe apple note that just really puts me off.  It wasn't as strong as some young craft whiskeys I've had in the past, but it was strong enough that I had a hard time getting past it to enjoy everything else.

Some of those traditional rye notes were still there in the background, however. I did get the usual cinnamon spice, as well as a bit of bright spearmint, particularly on the finish. Some of that chocolate note also came through on the finish as well.  But, the sweetness of this whiskey along with that young corn note continued to take over, even after each swallow.

I wanted to love this, but I just did not. It just came across as an overpriced craft whiskey bottled at too young an age. Perhaps their other products stand up better and have more age on them, but this one did not do it for me.

Grade: C-

Monday, June 27, 2022

Weller Full Proof Niche "Forrest Bondurant" Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:

- $250
- 114 Proof
- NAS
- Kentucky

Alright, the first thing that needs to be noted here is the price. That is, in fact, the price I paid for this bottle.  That is, in fact, nowhere near retail price.  That said, I'm not mad at it. It's kind of a funny story how I came into getting this bottle.

Niche in Geneva, IL is a favorite local restaurant of mine, not only stocking a phenomenal whiskey selection, but boasting an incredible menu as well.  In the Summer of 2020, most restaurants in Illinois were shut down due to COVID, with staff and management alike all looking for work or trying to weather the storm. While I was on an isolated beachy vacation with my family, the owner of Niche posted that they had just gotten this barrel pick in and that 100% of the proceeds from the sale would go back to their staff.  So, wanting to make sure one of my favorite places remained just that, I jumped on the phone and reserved my bottle.  For better or worse, I didn't bother asking the price. 

So, once I got home from vacation, I excitedly drove over to Niche to pick up my bottle only to discover at that time the price I paid for it! Needless to say, my wife wasn't exactly thrilled.  As I said, though, I wasn't mad about it. I'm sure my money helped someone else out at a time when they needed it more than I did. And if it kept Niche the institution that it's always been, I was happy to provide some funding towards that as well. And, in any event, Niche has always had amazing barrel picks, and I was sure this one wouldn't disappoint in flavor.

The aroma out of the glass was soft and pastry like. It had sweet dough and cinnamon notes, reminding me very much of cinnamon rolls. It even had a sweet vanilla icing quality to it. That sweetness was balanced, however, by a nice oak note that provided just the slightest bit of bitterness to round things out.

On the palate I got loads of sweet, rich caramel and soft vanilla. That soft vanilla was kind of like a sweet cream, or perhaps melted vanilla ice cream, but not so sugary. That light cinnamon note from the nose came through, as did the pastry note, though it actually reminded me more of a waffle batter.  The sweets didn't stop there, though. I got a rich chocolate note along with a rich (yes I'm using that word a lot) salted caramel note that was like something you'd get from a chocolatier.  

The finish provided something new, something along the lines of Maraschino cherries. It had that cordial note to it, as those cherry notes mixed with the chocolate and cinnamon to provide, once again, a rich and sweet chocolate treat type note.

This was an absolutely delicious pour, and it drank well-below its proof. I'm not sad I didn't grab two for the price, but I'm so glad I at least grabbed this one. Not only did it help do well by others, but it tasted incredible!

Grade: A

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice Glen Scotia 25 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

VITALS:
- $200
- 110 Proof
- 25 Years
- Batch 18/015
- Campbeltown

This is certainly not something that I went out actively looking for.  But, when I saw this sitting behind the glass at Woodman's, I was immediately intrigued. This checks all sorts of great boxes. It's 25 years old.  It's bottled at cask strength. It's aged in a first-fill bourbon barrel.  It's a very limited bottling at only 157 bottles. And most importantly, it's a Campbeltown single malt!  

Of course, it's pricey, but that kind of comes with the territory of such well-aged whiskey, and with all of those boxes checked, it's just the kind of whisky that will loosen up those purse strings.  Plus, it's one of those bottles that even the most avid of whisky drinkers will not have had a chance to try.  So, onto my shelf, and eventually into my belly, it went.

The nose was bright and light, with notes of strawberry and hay. It had a light smokiness to it as well, along with a touch of salinity. There was a natural sweetness to it, kind of like a honey note, as well as a light cracker note, all of which came across almost like Honeycombs cereal.

The flavor was incredible. While this wasn't aged in wine barrels, it was still bright fruit-forward, with a delicious raspberry note coming in strong up front. I also got a sweet and spicy cinnamon note to go with. There was also a sort of a funky, musty note. I know that sounds bad, but it had that kind of Saisson flavor to it, which actually balanced really well with the raspberry.

The finish is where this whisky really stood out!  It had a lingering spicy finish, with a nice mix of cinnamon and black pepper spices. There was also a bit of that salinity I got from the nose, and the bright fruit notes that I got up front seemed to reappear even stronger. I got great flavors of raspberry and currant, and behind that was a great, smooth butterscotch flavor that coated the back of my throat. I found myself just enjoying that butterscotch note for as long as I could.

As I mentioned, this was pricey, but I certainly don't feel as if it weren't worth the price. This was incredibly complex and, most of all, delicious!

Grade: A

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Springbank Madeira Cask Matured 17 Year Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

VITALS:
- $250
- 95.6 Proof
- 17 Years
- Campbeltown

This was absolutely a splurge bottle. I bought it a couple years back, and it was one of those bottles that I ordinarily wouldn't drop that kind of coin on, but at the time I had just gotten my bonus at work and was looking for a "splurge" bottle to celebrate, and this had just landed at my store. Even then, I certainly gave it a second thought. At that time the tariffs on Scotch imports were still in place, and even with that additional tax, the price seemed a bit exorbitant.

However, my love for Springbank and my intrigue over the Madeira cask finish got the best of me (as well as the availability of some expendable funds), and I pulled the trigger. I don't know that I'll ever spend that kind of money on a 17 year Scotch again, but I will say that in this case, I don't regret it and I don't have buyer's remorse, as this was truly delicious!

On the nose I got great notes of strawberry and dark chocolate. Chocolate covered strawberries was one of my mom's favorite treats, so we had them around my house frequently, and this took me right back to then. There was also a light smoke to it as well.  It's certainly not heavily peated, but just a touch of char added to the mix.

The flavor was full of rich, dark fruit notes. I got bright and deep blackberry, blueberry and currant notes. It also had that bright and fresh strawberry note that I was getting on the nose. That was all accompanied by the notes of dark chocolate, with even a touch of balancing bitterness.

It was certainly on the sweeter end of the spectrum, with that sweetness not only coming from those bright fruit-forward notes, but also notes of honey and even burnt sugar. It was more of a natural sweetness, in that sense, accompanied by a light char or smoke note.

On the finish, that all came together to kind of provide a sweet and tangy barbecue note that just kind of stuck around in my cheeks. There was a light pepper note as well as a bit of that smoke note that also seemed to linger a bit, but those sweet and tangy notes really stuck around forever, making me want more and more.

Again, this was a very pricey bottle, but it was also incredibly tasty and I'm so glad I got my hands on one. I tried to do a slow-burn, enjoying it periodically, but by the time I got to the bottom third of my bottle, the rest just seemed to magically disappear! Not sure how that happened!

Grade: A

Monday, June 13, 2022

Elijah Craig Binny's Private Select Single Barrel Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $70
- 130.2 Proof
- 8 Years
- Barrel No. 6361225
- Kentucky

These barrel strength private barrel seemed to hit the market somewhat hard and fast when the program first started, it seemed that all of them were below the standard 12 years that you get from the tri-annual release of the regular Elijah Craig Barrel Strength. In fact, most seem to be 9 or 10 years, with a 11 here and there.

However, this one came out at only 8 years old. Typically, where there are older offerings available, as was the case with this release, it's going to be a no-brainer to get the older bottling. However, in this case, I had already managed to grab two other Elijah Craig Barrel Proof picks, at 10 years and 11 years respectively. So, I was intrigued as to what it was about the younger 8-year pick that the "pickers" loved about this barrel enough to want to bottle it. While it's four years younger than the regular stuff, it's still in that sweet spot of bourbon age, even if towards the lower end.

The nose was everything I've come to expect from Elijah Craig. It was full of cinnamon and brown sugar sweetness. However, it also had a woody, earthy tone. I got a decent amount of pecan, as well as a light oak note. However, neither flavor seemed to bring in the type of bitterness that is so often associated with them. Rather it was more of a candied pecan note, with hints of oak on top.

The flavor was very much in-step with the aroma, as it led with oak and cinnamon. Here, though, the oak was a bit more prominent, which I wouldn't have expected out of a younger bottling. It actually tasted more aged than it was.  There was also a distinct layer of unsweetened vanilla right up front, which stayed through the back end.

The finish was interesting, as it made me think of an Old Fashioned, but without the sweetness. I definitely got an orange bitters type note, almost like orange peel but not as bright. There was also a walnut liqueur note, almost as if it were an Old Fashioned with an interesting twist, though again lacking that sweetness. The brown sugar I got on the nose seemed to disappear on the flavor and on the finish.

I happen to enjoy an oak-forward bourbon, so long as it's not overdone. In fact, that's what I love about Elijah Craig 18 Year, is it embraces that profile without overdoing it. This isn't quite as oak-forward as Elijah Craig 18 Year, but it certainly had an oak-forward profile that was tasty rather than offensive. It may have been a bit lacking in complexity, but it was still bold in flavor and gave me everything I wanted.  It certainly held up with any of the older barrels!

Grade: B+

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Blue Run Single Barrel Cask Strength 13.5 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Spring 2021

VITALS:
- $250
- 126.52 Proof
- 13.5 Years
- Barrel BB1-6
- Kentucky

Blue Run Spirits has certainly got a lot of attention since it started. Of course, having Jim Rutledge's name attached to any product is going to garner at least some positive hype, even before a single bottle has been opened.  However, at least from what I've seen, not only are people chasing down Blue Run bottles on the secondary market, but those that have opened there bottles have generally given positive reviews.

I had the chance to try their high rye bourbon that a friend so graciously shared, and I really enjoyed it. In fact, he opened it on our guys ski trip and the bottle didn't last the night. This particular bottle, though, hits a bit harder, a single barrel bourbon coming in at cask strength and aged for a solid 13.5 years! You can't really go wrong with that, save for the price. But, full disclosure, I didn't pay anywhere near full price for this bottle, which may or may not have impacted my review.

The nose on this one was absolutely delicious, like a rich dessert you'd get from a chocolatier.  I got a great combination of cherry, chocolate and cinnamon right away, followed by a rich amaretto liqueur note. It was very much like a cherry cordial, except more cherry forward. 

As to flavor, this certainly was on the sweeter side, but with a nice, spicy cinnamon backbone.  Up front there was a healthy amount of vanilla along with a sweet, creamy caramel note. It had a sort of dulce de leche flavor going on, which I absolutely loved.

There were also dark chocolate notes, along with some brown sugar sweetness, which reminded me at times of chocolate chip cookies. Of course, that cherry note from the note was there, but this was more of a brighter, freshly-picked cherry note, which went great with the dark chocolate.

This was certainly a more viscous bourbon, and it had an almost sticky mouthfeel to it. This was particularly so on the finish. Not only did I find myself smacking my lips after every sip, but those notes of cherry and vanilla seemed to just stick to the inside of my mouth, seemingly never wanting to leave.

This was an absolute banger of a bottle. Of course, the retail price is steep, and you're not likely to find it on the shelves any more in any event. But, the bourbon itself is absolutely fantastic, and it's worth trying a pour if you get a chance.

Grade: A

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Whisky Exchange A Toast To Christmas 19 Year Blended Malt Scotch

VITALS:
- $120
- 88.6 Proof
- 19 years
- Scotland

This is certainly my favorite gifted whiskey ever. This past Christmas, my family gave this bottle to me. It's a Christmas exclusive release from the Whisky Exchange, complete with personalized, dated label informing me, "Congratulations, you made the nice list!"  If I knew this was the reward for making the nice list, I would have been trying a whole lot harder this whole time!

This bottle is a 19 year blended malt matured in a sherry butt.  There is no indication as to the source of the whisky, with the only indication on the bottle being that it was "Obtained from a Private Collection."  Not really sure what that means. In fact, it doesn't even identify the region(s).  It does, however, indicate that this bottling was limited to only 520 bottles.  So, a review of this particular bottle might be pointless. But, I finished the bottle, so now I'm reviewing it.

As would be expected from a whiskey matured for 19 years in a sherry butt, the nose was very fruit forward. It was full of bright and fresh berries, including raspberry and strawberry. There was also some dark cherry mixed in as well. That was all accompanied by a sweet honey note, along with some light cereal notes, and even a hint of vanilla. This was, however, very fruit forward.

The flavor followed suit for the most part. Those berries all came through, with the raspberry note being the most notable. What I loved, though, is that these fruit-forward notes were always bright and fresh, rather than being rich and dark and heavy, as is so often the case from sherry cask whiskies. 

There was a layer of vanilla, as well as a very welcome and rich butterscotch note that seemed to underscore everything. The honey sweetness I got on the nose was also there.  I also got some darker fruit notes, like raisin or fig.

On the finish that raisin note seemed to actually linger a bit longer than the bright berry notes.  The vanilla also seemed to stick around as well. It was also on the finish that a black pepper spice creeped in, adding a bit of an unexpected but welcome surprise to it all.  

I don't know where this whisky came from, but I enjoyed every drop of it. Hopefully this becomes some sort of family tradition!!

Grade: B+

Monday, May 30, 2022

Caol Ila Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 13 Year Single Malt Scotch

VITALS:
- $100
- 90 Proof
- 13 Years
- Batch 18/002
- Islay

I really do love all things peat and sweet. I have yet to find a wine barrel matured or finished single malt that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. There's something about that fruity and smoky combination that just hits right. So when this bottle popped up on Binny's shelves, it wasn't much of a decision to be made. I knew I'd have to give it a try.

This particular bottle was initially matured in first fill bourbon and refill American casks. After that, it was finished in Hermitage casks for an additional 3 years. I had to look it up, but Hermitage is a French red wine made from Syrah grapes, which notably tend to be a bit more earthy and tannic. I could only hope that would mingle well with delicious Caol Ila peat.

On the nose I immediately got char notes mixed with spicy dark fruit, like blackberry and pepper.  Of course I got a health amount of smoke from the peat, as well as a sweet brown sugar note. This all really reminded me of a sweet and spicy barbecue, the kind that makes your mouth water just smelling it.

The flavor was absolutely bursting with the dark fruit notes from the wine finish. I was immediately hit with a ton of dark cherry, blackberry, fig and even raisin. It was vibrant and rich, and even managed to overtake the peat. This was one of the "juicier" whiskies I can recall ever having.

Those dark fruits were accompanied by the same brown sugar and black pepper that I got on the nose, offering a nice sweet and spicy background to go with those fruit forward notes. Of course the peaty notes made their way in eventually (they can't really be denied), and it again leaned towards a delicious barbecue flavor.

On the finish the pepper spice really stuck around, including at the back of my throat. There as also this soft vanilla note that came through, which seemed to balance out a lingering cherry note that had coated my mouth. 

This was a fantastic bottle, and two friends and I killed half the bottle just the first night opening it. I wanted to slow myself down, but I couldn't help but go back, and that bottle was killed within a couple weeks, which is always a mark of a great whisky!

Grade: A

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Evan Williams Master Blend Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Gift Shop Exclusive)

VITALS:
- $60
- 90 Proof
- NAS
- Kentucky

Whenever I go to Kentucky, I always feel like I have to come back with something special, something that I can't get in Illinois. Of course, it's always easy to go the route of a local store pick, but it's the stuff that's only available at the distillery gift shops that I really want to try to bring home. Luckily for me, during my last trip to Louisville I had a brief moment to swing through the Evan Williams Experience, and I was able to snag a couple bottles of this Master Blend (I passed on the over-priced Evan Williams 12-year).

This is a blend of five different Evan Williams products, including their Signature Black, the Bottled-in-Bond, 1783 and Evan Williams Single Barrel, as well as some of the 23-year-old! Of course, how much of the 23-year-old is in this blend is not disclosed, but I think it's a fair assumption that it represents a very small percentage of the blend. Nonetheless, this came highly recommended to me, and I was eager to give it a try.

The nose came across as sweet but earthy. My first note was sweet tea. It had that honey sweetness to it, but also a light bitter and dry note from the tea leaves. I also got some sweet oak as well. In that sense the nose was interesting in that it had a balance of bitter and sweet, though it did lean a bit more to the sweeter end, so perhaps "balance" wasn't the correct word.

Despite the lower proof, there was a certain unexpected richness to this whiskey. It still had that sweet wood note I got off the nose, but it was more of a mix of dark molasses and rich oak notes. The combination worked fairly well.  

There was also a bright and bitter note, kind of like an orange peel note, that I really enjoyed. It seemed to cut through the rich notes while adding further depth of flavor. It also had the tea leaf note from the nose, but it didn't come across so much as a sweet tea. Rather, the unsweetened tea note seemed to stand on its own.

On the finish I got a nice cinnamon spice that seemed to almost appear out of nowhere.  That was a pleasant surprise. That and the orange peel note seemed to stick around the longest, while the oak and molasses notes seemed to fade away a bit. The finish wasn't very long and it didn't exactly coat my mouth, but that's to be expected given the proof.

If you're in Kentucky and are looking to bring something back that you can't get in your home state, this is a good grab. At $60, it's far more accessible than many other gift shop exclusives (though, for Evan Williams products, a bit on the higher end), and it was quite tasty.

Grade: B

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Chattanooga Whiskey Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $50
- 100 Proof
- 4 yrs
- Tennessee

Who loves free whiskey??  I do!!!  Last November my wife took me out to celebrate my birthday, including a great dinner at RPM Steakhouse followed by drinks at one of my favorite whiskey bars in Chicago, Untitled.  She even invited a few close friends to meet us there for drinks, and we enjoyed some fine pours and good times.

My buddy brought this bottle along with him as a birthday gift for me. He grabbed this particular bottle because he knew it was one that I had never had before. That, right there, is the greatest consideration anyone can give when buying a bottle for a whiskey drinker. Quite frankly, good, bad or otherwise, I always love getting something I've never had or tried before. So, I was very excited to get into this one!

On the nose I got sweet and woody notes of cinnamon and walnut. It also had a sort of sugary sweetness to it, perhaps like a burnt sugar, as well as a brighter honey sweetness. Notes of oak and vanilla seemed to come through as well, which I particularly noticed on my last few pours.

As for flavor, my initial impression upon my first sip is that this is definitely on the sweeter end. Oddly enough, I got a bit of an agave note, kind of like a sweeter tequila note.  That was a new one and it threw me off a bit, though I didn't dislike it. That was accompanied by notes of cane sugar and pear to kind of round out that experience.

That note really was only noticeable on the first few pours. After having this open for a bit, the profile seemed to change significantly, and it got well-away from that tequila note. It always maintained that sweet, cane sugar-like profile, but it also developed an earthy, more nutty note. It was kind of a mix of peanut and walnut in that sense.

On the finish it was the walnut note more than the peanut note that seemed to really stick around. The finish was actually dryer than expected, too, with much of the sweetness subsiding. I even got a bit of a graham cracker note on the end.

Of course, in the end I do love free whiskey! This one was good, but at times a bit weird and nothing that ever blew me away. That said, I'm certainly never going to turn down a pour.

Grade: B-

Thursday, May 12, 2022

E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 2020

VITALS:
- $90
- 130.3
- NAS
- Kentucky

While I really enjoy the E.H. Taylor line-up, I've come to absolutely love the Barrel Proof Taylor. I'm not sure why it hits me differently, perhaps it's just the great combination of high proof and lack of filtering, leaving all the goodness in the bottle. Whatever it is, while I like the single barrel, these Barrel Proofs have always been amazing to me.

And apparently I'm not the only one that has taken notice. Of course scarcity and the fact that it's a Buffalo Trace product have something to do with it, but the secondary pricing on these bottles is just nuts, hovering in the $600-800 range. Though I'd never bring myself to pay that much for something I'm just going to end up drinking, it tells me I should consider myself blessed to enjoy these when I do stumble across a bottle.

On the nose I got a lot of cinnamon and chocolate. It was a spicy cinnamon, though, and it reminded me of Mexican chocolate. That chocolate note was actually quite strong and really dominated the aroma. There were also some cherry notes buried in there as well, which, mixed with that cinnamon, gave of a sort of cloves aroma.

Right as the first sip hit my tongue, I was hit with a blast of flavor, full of caramel and cherry. It even had a sort of tangy amaretto note to it as well. It was certainly sweet, but had a rich fruitiness to it and even a bit of an earthy note to keep it grounded.

It also filled my mouth with a nice, warm cinnamon spice. it wasn't biting, but rather just there to be enjoyed. That warm cinnamon spice stuck around long through the finish as well. And it wasn't just heat from the high ABV. In fact, this wasn't overheated at all, regardless of its proof, making it very drinkable.

The finish, as mentioned, was full of that delicious cinnamon note, but there was also some sweet butterscotch on the finish. Almost as though someone took that caramel note from the front end and melted some butter right into it. There was also a bit of nutmeg as well, which again kept the sweetness from going too far.

Everything about this bottle was right down my wheelhouse. I hesitate to give an A+ grade too freely, but the fact of the matter is that as far as my ideal bourbons go, this bottle was it! This was absolutely superb and more than deserving of the grade.

Grade: A+