Friday, December 16, 2022

Colonel E.H. Taylor Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon


- $70
- 100 Proof
- Barrel #027
- Kentucky

I've managed to pick up a handful of these E.H. Taylor single barrel store picks. And yet, for whatever reason, I never got around to opening any of them until just recently. This was one of the bottles I brought with me on my recent trip to Kentucky, and once I popped it open I realized what a folly it was to not have done so sooner.

These tend to be few and far between, even at the bigger stores. On top of that, the demand is a bit nuts. So they're just not easy to come by, and perhaps that's why I waited. That said, it won't be long at all until I open up the next one on my shelf.

The nose was very caramel forward, with a rich sweetness that reminded me of Werther's candy. There was a light oak note to it, but lacking any bitterness. It also had notes of chocolate and brown sugar, and there was something there that reminded me of blondies. I also got hints of orange peel that gave off a slight Old Fashioned note.

What I loved about this bourbon, from the first sip, is that I absolutely got that blondies note right up front. Perhaps that's not relatable, but for those not in the know, it's like a brownie, but with butterscotch and brown sugar instead of chocolate. One of my favorite desserts, and this bourbon nailed it.

I also got other backing spices, including a lightly spicy cinnamon note, and that chocolate note I got from the nose appeared as well, though not as strong. The light oak note from the nose was also present on the palate, but without any associated bitterness. It seemed to fit right in to keep this from leaning too sweet.

The finish was rich but only lightly sweet, which was a nice departure at the end. There I was left with notes of dark chocolate and fig or raisin, and just the slightest tingle of cinnamon spice. It was a great way to finish off a great sip.

I was a big fan of this bottle, and once it was opened it wasn't long for this world. I can't wait to crack into another of these, and I can only hope it's as good as this one was.

Grade: A

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Benromach 15 Year Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

- $70
- 86 Proof
- 15 Years
- Speyside

I am certainly a big fan of peated whiskies finished in wine casks. As far as single malts go, I lean almost exclusively in that direction, and I frequently find myself focusing only on the Islay section of the Scotch aisle. However, Benromach, despite being a Speyside distillery, has always used peat in their products, and I figured it was time that I give their 15 year a try.

After all, not only is this one peated, but, although not stated anywhere on the packaging, was matured at least in part in first-fill sherry casks.   Sign me up! And the price certainly makes it an easy decision, as the $70 price point is more than generous for a 15 year peated whiskey finished in first-fill casks. Perhaps a little more proof would have been great, but then you'd have to pay for it.

Despite their claim that this has a "subtle" smoky flavor, the peat smoke came through fairly strongly on the nose.  Behind that, however, were great notes of brown sugar and butter crackers, like Ritz crackers. The best part about the nose, however, was the bright raspberry note that married so well with that peat smoke and immediately had me salivating.

Interestingly, there wasn't nearly as much smoke in flavor as the nose had me believe. While it was there, it was indeed "subtle," and far less dominant than it was on the nose. That bright raspberry note I got on the nose wasn't nearly as strong as I had expected as well. It was a tad muted, which was immediately a bit disappointing.

However, that disappointment didn't last long, because while the raspberry note didn't take over, other great, rich notes came through to provide more complexity and nuance. I got rich fruits, like fig and raisin, paired with a molasses sweetness. There was even a pie crust note that created this sort of rich and sweet and yet savory flavor that was not only incredible but a bit unexpected.

On the finish the peat smoke seemed to come through much more. It was almost like it was the flavor that was left behind. A bit of sweet brown sugar accompanied that note and a bit of the fruit notes, both bright and dark fruits, lingered as well, albeit not for a super long time.

This was a delicious pour, and it surprised me at times the direction it went. It was unexpected, but certainly enjoyable.

Grade: B+

Monday, December 12, 2022

Benriach The Smoky Twelve 12 Year Speyside Single Malt Scotch

- $70
- 92 Proof
- 12 Years
- Speyside

There aren't too many Speyside malts that feature peat.  Benromach does regularly, and other distilleries seem to do so only in special or limited releases, for the most part.  I'm sure there are others out there and I'm just not aware of them, but the fact of the matter is that Speyside is not exactly known for its smoke bombs.

And, I'm not that familiar with Benriach. I don't believe I've ever even sampled Benriach prior to enjoying this bottle. But, when I saw it on the shelf, I was intrigued not only by the fact that it was a peated Speyside single malt, but that it had been matured in three casks, including sherry and Marsala casks. That wonderful mix of peat and sweet is right up my alley, and with a cool name like "The Smoky Twelve," I knew I had to give it a try at some point.

On the nose the smoke wasn't nearly as big as in some Islay scotches. It was on the lighter side, giving room for other notes of honey and caramel.  There was also a nice butterscotch malt note as well and some bright orange citrus. The sherry and Marsala cask influence came through as well, but in the form of an artificial raspberry note, like raspberry flavored hard candy.

The flavor matched, in a way, but also diverged quite a bit. Notably, one of the first flavors that hit the front of my tongue was an unexpected almond liqueur note, with a tangy richness that was nowhere to be found on the nose.

This also had a malty backbone with a light black pepper spice that lingered through the finish. That bright orange note from the nose was also there, kind of like a fresh orange peel.  Luckily the wine cask influence didn't lean towards that fake raspberry note, but rather provided a very welcome fresh strawberry note, and all of these flavors seemed to work quite well with one another.

I do wish the peat were dialed up a bit, but that is certainly a personal preference. I did get those iodine notes and a bit of salinity in my glass, and that salinity also seemed to linger along with the black pepper and a hint of the strawberry. But the peat smoke seemed to fade a bit.

I know there are older expressions of this, and I just may need to give them a go at some point. But, I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity with this one. I did want a bit more, but it was still a tasty dram!

Grade: B

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Maker's Mark Private Select Binny's Beverage Depot - PB Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $70
- 110.2
- Finish: 1 Baked American Pure; 3 Seared French Cuvee; 2 Maker's 46; 3 Roasted French Mocha, 1 Toasted French Spice
- Kentucky

I feel like I've really slept on these Maker's Mark private selections. When they first came out, I was floored at how much I enjoyed them. I remember trying my first one at Haymarket in Louisville and I couldn't get over the incredibly delicious chocolate note I got from it.  I've since tried a handful of different picks, either bottles I've picked up or pours I've had at bars, and every single one has been delicious.

And yet, despite having had plenty of chances, it's been almost three years since I've purchased a Maker's Private Selection bottle. And it's silly of me given that it's moderately priced, it's cask strength, and I know I'm going to love the whiskey inside (pretty much regardless of the stave combination). Luckily, something motivated me to grab this particular bottle when it hit a while back, and I finally got around to polishing it off.

The nose was baked goods all around. I got pastry crust, sweet cinnamon and even a bit of vanilla icing. What hit me the most, though, was a distinct milk chocolate note.  I've been searching for that note in these bottles ever since that first taste at Haymarket, but to no avail. However, in this one, that chocolate note was right up front on the nose.

And to make it even better, it came right through on the palate as well. The very first thing I tasted when it hit the tip of my tongue was that milk chocolate note. However, there was almost a creaminess to it, as well as a distinct sweet vanilla. Overall, that first note reminded me very much of hot cocoa with marshmallows. I was immediately sold.

Other flavors came through as well, as I got pie crust and graham cracker, as well as something that reminded me of cashews, nutty but sweet and even oily. There was a light cinnamon note as well, and that cinnamon note seemed to carry through to the finish, along with the chocolate note, to almost provide a sort of spicy chocolate note that rested nicely at the back of my throat.

I don't know if this stave combination, if replicated, would produce a similar tasting whisky, but this was certainly one of the best Maker's Mark private selections I've had.

Grade: A

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Carl T. Huber's Malloy's Finest Wine & Spirits Private Select Cigar Batch Bourbon Finished in Brazilian Amburana Barrels


- $80
- 110.2
- 4 Years
- Barrel No. 22-2124-2
- Indiana

I've only had one of these Cigar Batches from Starlight before.  I had picked up a Binny's pick a while back when saw it on the shelf for the first time.  At first blush it seemed gimmicky -- just throw some bourbon into some other type of barrel and call it "Cigar Batch" so it sells.  After all, other brands had released "Cigar Batch" bourbons, and with some decent success.

However, the more I looked into it, the more intrigued I was as to what the Amburana barrels might add, and I was glad I did because I absolutely loved that bottle. So, when I got a chance to get another, one picked by a different store and a different palate, I jumped at the chance. While I don't necessarily have a specific recollection of previous bourbons I've tried, I certainly recalled that this was unique and interesting, and, of course, delicious!

The nose on this one immediately told me this would be no different. Right away I got rich notes of chocolate and hazelnut. There was a very distinct nutty quality to it, almost like a dry roasted peanut note. It had a spice to the nose as well, almost like a cardamom. It also had this sweet pipe tobacco note, which gives justice to naming this "Cigar Batch."

The flavor absolutely followed suit. It had significant pastry-like qualities, with a bready note as well as notes of vanilla, cinnamon and even a rich raisin note. The chocolate and hazelnut notes came through shortly after it hit my tongue as well and gave an almost creamy, rich and sweet quality to this.

Behind those rich, pastry and dessert-like notes were some welcome flavors that reminded me of an old fashioned. I certainly got a bit of orange peel, just enough bitterness to help temper all the sweet notes. There was a bit of a cooked cherry note as well, and underneath all of that was a healthy layer of brown sugar.

Aside from the tobacco note I got on the nose, I'm not sure what exactly makes this a "Cigar Batch." That said, I'm not a cigar smoker, and it's quite possible that this would pair excellently with a great cigar. What I do know, though, is that I once again found this to be unique, interesting, and absolutely delicious!

Grade: A 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Elijah Craig Binny's 11 Year Barrel Proof Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $70
- 123.8 Proof
- 11 Years
- Barrel No. 5733155
- Kentucky

It's been a while since I've finished one of these off. For a while there Binny's was getting a quite a few of these in, and I was grabbing pretty much every one I could get my hands on. So far it's been my experience that age ain't nothing but a number, and whether these have been 8 years old or 11 years old, they've all been excellent and on par with the normal barrel proof releases.

This, however, was the last of the store picks that I had grabbed, though I have plenty of the regular Barrel Proof releases in reserve, so I'm good. But it is still fun to pick up these store picks that might have something different or unique in their flavor profile, something that made them stand out to the taster.

The nose told me that this was going to be just what I've come to want, and even expect, from Elijah Craig Barrel Proofs. It was cherry and oak forward, though it didn't have the bitterness that sometimes comes with the oak note. It also gave notes of cinnamon and brown sugar, and even had a bit of a graham cracker note. It smelled like a rich baked dessert and I couldn't wait to dive in.

The cherry note didn't hit me up front as I had expected. Rather, it was the cinnamon that really came through, along with the oak note. Again, the bitterness from the oak didn't come through, luckily. Just that oak flavor, making this seem like a much older bourbon than it was.

It did have that brown sugar sweetness that I was getting on the nose, as well as a bit of a pie crust note. Between all of these flavors, I definitely got a bit of a pecan pie vibe, and I absolutely dug it.

On the finish the cherry came through, but it wasn't that brighter, fresh cherry note I got on the nose. Rather, it was more of a cooked cherry note, with added spices like cinnamon and clove. It had the brown sugar sweetness as well. While it didn't seem to last as long as I would have liked, the flavor punch on the finish was my favorite part about this bourbon. Here's to grabbing more of these as they come in!!

Grade: A- 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Batch No. C920

- $55
- 122.4 Proof
- Batch No. C920
- Kentucky

Although it's a wheated bourbon that packs a punch, for whatever reason Larceny Barrel Proof just doesn't get the love that other wheated bourbons from other distilleries of a bovine nature. It doesn't seem to even get the amount of love that Elijah Craig Barrel Proof gets, though that I understand a bit more. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a well established brand, and, of course, it comes with a 12 year age statement.

Admittedly, I haven't even found myself reaching for these bottles when I've seen them. I know I've passed on them a couple times in the last six months or so, but that was due in part to the fact that I had two sitting on my shelves at home that I had yet to finish. It might be time to start picking these off the shelves, though.

The nose was like being in a bakery. I got a ton of chocolate to start, along with some cinnamon and pastry notes. It wasn't quite like cinnamon roles, though. That pastry note was more like a pie crust or even a shortbread note. I also got a rich sweetness, almost like molasses.

I was surprised at how little burn I got off this bourbon given its proof. I was also surprised, given how bold the nose was, at how soft the flavor was. Right up front I got sweet caramel, like Werther's, and brown sugar cookie. Kind of like a chocolate chip cookie but without the chocolate chips. It also had a bit of a graham cracker note. But, the caramel was certainly dominant.

It didn't lean entirely sweet, though. There was a light cinnamon spice as well as a bit of a black pepper spice to it as well. I also got a sweet oak note, adding wood flavor but not the bitterness. There was even a bit of a tangy amaretto note to this that seemed to show up in later pours.

The finish started primarily with the caramel, but as that faded, that amaretto note and the black pepper were what seemed to stick around. It was like a rich, liqueur-based dessert but with the added pepper spice that lingered at the back of my throat. 

This was a really good bottle, and I'm an idiot for passing on these when I've seen them. That won't be happening any more.

Grade: A-

Friday, November 11, 2022

Laphroaig Cairdeas Islay Single Malt Scotch Finished in Pedro Ximenez Casks

- $90
- 117.8 Proof
- 2021 Edition
- Islay

I have really grown to love the Cairdeas releases from Laphroaig. Quite frankly it started with the 2020 release finished in port & wine casks. I absolutely fell in love with that bottle, and since then I've not only grabbed each subsequent release, but I've also grabbed older releases whenever I've happened across them.

This one, however, was the one that got me the most excited. I absolutely love that combination of sweet and peat, so any Islay single malts matured in any kind of sherry or port casks immediately pique my interest.  Throw in that it's cask strength and I knew this was going to be really good before ever tasting a drop.

On the nose the peat smoke is very up front and in your face, like a dying campfire. I also got a great big fat note of rich dark fruit, like blackberry and currant. Even the aroma on this whisky was jammy. It also had a black pepper spice to it that kind of tickled my nostrils as I inhaled.

Of course, the flavor was much the same. This was a big and bold whisky.  The peat smoke was big and bold, kind of like a campfire barbecue in a glass.  The rich, dark fruit notes were also big and bold. It was as though I took a big swallow of black raspberry and black currant jelly, swished it around in my mouth, and then took a sip of a heavily peated scotch. 

While the peat took a strong hold up front, this whisky finished sweet and peppery and funky (in a good way).  I'm not sure how to describe that funk, other than that it added a dusty and cheesy note at the end.

While at first the peat seemed to take center stage, in the last few pours the sherry notes really seemed to come forward, making it more sweet than smoky. In fact, once I got to about four pours left, this became my after-dinner dessert with regularity until it was gone.  This bottle was absolutely everything I wanted it to be!

Grade: A

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Smoke Wagon Uncut the Younger Straight Bourbon

- $50
- 114.44 Proof
- Indiana

I have, quite frankly, been an absolute fan of everything that Smoke Wagon has been putting out, from their small batch bourbon to their Uncut & Unfiltered, to their limited releases and store picks, and even recently their bottled in bond rye. Whether it's their whiskey or its sourced, I don't really care.  It's all been really good.

When they announced the release of Uncut the Younger, it just seemed at first like an easy way to piggy-back off the success of Uncut & Unfiltered and release some young stocks to the market. But, as I gave it more thought, given the accessible price and the fact that it's still being released at cask strength, it's well worth taking a shot.

The nose was full of baking spices and fruit. Perhaps I'd attribute the fruit to it being on the younger end, but it immediately reminded me of apple pie. I got not only the baked apple but also notes of cinnamon and even a pie crust note. It also had a light caramel sweetness.  I could have nosed my glass forever with this one.

Right up front I got a nice cinnamon heat on the tip of my tongue, followed immediately by that pie crust note I was getting on the nose.  It was bready, in a sense, but on the sweeter side. I didn't get any apple notes (or any fruit notes for that matter), but instead I got a kind of chocolate hazelnut note, not unlike Nutella, that went so well with the cinnamon and pie crust notes.

It had a sweet and nutty finish that I also really enjoyed, even if it took a bit of a turn from the front-end flavors. It was kind of like candied cashews. It was sweet and soft and nutty, but also had a bit of a toffee note to it.  

I really enjoyed this bottle, far more than I thought I would! This is one that, given its general availability and approachable price, everyone should try. 

Grade: A-

Monday, November 7, 2022

Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

- $50
- 95 Proof
- 3 Years
- Kentucky

I really do love free whiskey! Such was the case with this bottle, a gift from a friend who had borrowed my car to go to Louisville for Bourbon and Beyond. As a thank you, he brought me back a bottle of Rabbit Hole Boxergrail rye. 

I've never had anything from Rabbit Hole.  I've been to their distillery, or at least next to it. I've even peaked in the windows. But, I've never tasted anything they've made. I don't have any reason for it other than I just never got around to trying it. Luckily, thanks to this gift, I finally got a chance to give their three-year rye a chance.

On the nose it came across as soft and sweet.  I got a sweeter cinnamon note, missing some of the expected spice. I also got a bit of mint. That seemed to pair with a sweet, soft vanilla that provided a sort of foundation for the other notes. It smelled great, but certainly wasn't pungent.

As for flavor, that sweet vanilla and mint was immediately noticeable up front. Unlike on the nose, however, these flavors were much more pronounced. They provided the backbone for everything else going on in my glass.  

In addition to the vanilla, I got occasional notes of black pepper and maybe even root beer. That vanilla with the various spice notes I got form the rye created a flavor that was kind of a cream soda mixed with ginger beer. It was sweet and spicy, but not the typical spice I'm used to out of rye. I really liked that unique flavor.

On the finish the cinnamon notes really seemed to take hold. Once again, though, it wasn't a spicy cinnamon but rather a sweet cinnamon. It had a sort of cinnamon toast note to it.

I was ultimately very pleasantly impressed by this bottle. I find that ryes tend to fall into either the spicy or sweet category, and this is in that sweet category. I tend to enjoy both for different reasons, and albeit on the sweet end of the spectrum, I did enjoy this one as well.

Grade: B/B+

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Russell's Reserve Binny's Private Barrel Select Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $60
- 110 Proof
- 9 Years, 7 Mos.
- Barrel #21-0824
- Kentucky

I think pretty much anything I can say about Russell's Reserve private picks really doesn't need saying. It's simple.  Whenever you see one, buy it. I don't care if I'm in Kentucky hunting things that I can't get in Illinois, or if I'm in some small unknown liquor store in the middle of nowhere. If I see a Russell's Reserve private pick on the shelf, it's coming home with me.

Of course, some are better than others. But, of the handful I've had, all have been excellent bourbons and more than worth the price.  Amazingly, we haven't yet seen the price jump on these that we have on other private picks (looking at you, Four Roses!).  I emphasize the "yet," though, as I feel it's only a matter of time.

As to this particular bottle, on the nose the first note I jotted down was cherry. This was unquestionably cherry forward, but more of a fresh, dark cherry note as opposed to that fake cherry flavor. Behind that was a sweet cola note as well as a bit of cinnamon spice. I also got a light oaky note as well, but this was certainly cherries first and foremost.

Not surprisingly, the cherry note was front and center on the palate. Quite frankly, given how prominent it was on the nose, I don't know how it couldn't be. However, it seemed to be paired well with rich caramel and cinnamon notes, giving it a bit of a dessert or pastry like note. Rich and sweet to be sure, but just a touch of spice.

It had a great viscosity as well, the kind you'd associate with a higher proof bourbon. With that viscosity came a long and flavorful finish full of cloves and sweet tobacco. I even got some rich anise notes and, of course, cherry. There was a nice cinnamon spice that lingered as well, making me salivate for that next sip.

This bourbon was complex, rich, sweet and spicy, and it really hit all the marks for me. I think this was one of the best Russell's Reserve picks I've had, so much so I may have to try to track down another.

Grade: A

Monday, October 31, 2022

Maker's Mark Wood Finishing Series 2022 Limited Release BRT-02 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $70
- 109.4 Proof
- Kentucky

While I don't actively hunt these out, the Maker's Mark Wood Finishing Series releases have all been great whiskeys.  So, when I see one on the shelf, I'm sure to grab it. Luckily, these aren't the target of the typical bourbon hunters, so running across one of these hasn't been all that difficult.

This year, though, they decided to release two of them. So, I was put to a decision, because I just didn't really want to buy both. For no reason whatsoever other than that's where my hand went, I picked up the BRT-02. This one was finished with 10 virgin toasted French oak staves. While I like the use of French oak in Maker's, so far I haven't been high on toasted finish bourbons. But, I was hopeful that this one would provide a different influence than other toasted finishes I've tried.

The nose on this is a great combination of caramel and wood. It lacks that tannic bitterness, but provides the nice, oaky notes that I love. I also got a decent amount of dark chocolate to go with, as well as a sort of walnut note. It smelled rich and delicious.

As much as I liked the nose, I enjoyed the flavor even more.  The chocolate and caramel really came through, providing a great baseline of flavor including some rich, sweet dessert-like notes.  There was also another sweet note, kind of like a honey note to go with that chocolate and caramel. As sweet as all this sounds, it never leaned too sweet. It was, though, on the sweet end of the spectrum.

It had a nice, light cinnamon spice to it, more noticeable on the finish than on the back end. That seemed to be folded into a sweet nougat note. Once I got the nougat note, that was almost all I could notice, and it was great! That nougat along with the chocolate and caramel gave this bourbon a real Milky Way vibe.

The finish had that little bit of cinnamon spice, and the chocolate and caramel notes carried through as well. However, those notes were all fleeting, and the finish simply didn't last very long. Usually that's the case with a lower proof whiskey. This had plenty of viscosity, but those flavors just didn't stick around nearly as long as I wanted them to.

That said, this was still another great release from Maker's in the Wood Finishing Series, and I'll continue to grab these as I see them!

Grade: A-

Thursday, October 27, 2022

High West Double Rye! Binny's Private Selection Blended Rye Whiskey Finished in Spanish Brandy Casks

- $55
- 99.6 Proof
- Finished 6 mos.
- Barrel #25183
- Utah/Indiana

I am an absolute sucker for the various unique finishes that High West gives us as part of their private barrel program. Some of my favorite whiskeys over the years have been these bottlings, including a number of different wine finishes and an Armagnac finish that was absolutely amazing.

This is the first I've seen of a Spanish Brandy finish, though. Obviously different locations are going to provide different grape varietals. It's obviously seen in wine, and, while I don't profess to know a whole lot about brandy, I certainly see it there as well. The differences from American brandy to French brandy can be pretty significant. I've never tried Spanish brandy, that I know of, and maybe I'll have to make it a point to remedy that.

In the meantime, this Spanish brandy finished rye offered all sorts of deliciousness that tells me I'm missing out. On the nose I got brought back to memories of hot apple pie topped with caramel sauce. It had the fruity notes, the baking spices, the pie crust notes and, of course, that sweet and rich caramel note. I could have sat on my couch nosing my glass all night it was so good.

The flavor, while it wasn't strictly limited to apple pie and caramel notes, was nonetheless just as good. It still had the rich and sweet caramel notes, and up front I still got a lot of those baking spices. It also provided a bit more heat, almost like a blend of cinnamon and chili spice. 

Instead of apple, though, I was getting a lot of dark fruits. I got sweet and rich blackberry notes, as well as vibrant plum notes. Perhaps that's where the baked apple notes from the nose went. Those dark fruit notes also provided a bit of welcome tartness which helped offset the sweet caramel notes.

What I think I loved most about this bottle, though, was the finish. It was full of cinnamon spice that lingered in the back of my throat. But, it had this sort of cinnamon chai tea latte flavor to it, perhaps even a bit of a horchata note, that was absolutely delicious. I kept pouring glass after glass just so I could continue to enjoy that finish!

I want more of this, but sadly it's gone. That said, on my next trip to the liquor store I think I'm going to have to inquire about a nice Spanish brandy if this is the kind of influence their barrels are going to have on whiskey.

Grade: A

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Proof & Wood The Senator Binny's Private Selection Barrel Proof Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey

- $75
- 104.4 Proof
- 6 1/2 Years
- Indiana

This is one of those bottles that I had eyed multiple times as I perused the whiskey aisle at Binny's, and for whatever reason never pulled the trigger. I'm sure it was some combination of the price being a bit off-putting and me wanting other stuff more. This was a release in 2021, and it wasn't until earlier this year that I finally got around to grabbing a bottle.

To be clear, the price certainly caused some hesitation. After all, this is 6 year barrel strength MGP rye. While I do love the fact that it's barrel strength, and that it's a single barrel, the fact of the matter is that there seem to be a number of ryes on the shelf boasting similarly age-stated, barrel strength, single barrel MGP rye at a similar price point. I think what eventually put this one over the top, though, was that it was a private pick. And so I bit the bullet.

The nose on this one was full of sweet cinnamon, almost cinnamon candy-like.  There was also a nice, buttery pastry note, kind of like a Danish but without any fruit filling. I also got a little bit of pine as well as some orange peel. There was even a little butterscotch to add another layer of complexity and flavor. This cacophony of aromas was absolutely delicious (I've been reading the "C" section of the dictionary).

As to flavor, that sweet cinnamon note certainly dominated. It had that Big Red gum or Fireball candy note to it, though not necessarily so oppressive. There was also a dark fruit note that seemed to accompany it, kind of like wine-soaked raisins, and even cooked cherry. That combo of the cinnamon and the dark fruit notes was delicious and very warming.

On the finish I got a rich, lingering amaretto note that was sweet and a bit tangy. It was here that I got some of those typical MGP rye notes, specifically a lingering mint note and even some root beer left behind. I also got a bit of that pine resin on the finish that I sometimes get in ryes.

As expected, this is a rich and spicy rye. However, it was more complex than most MGP ryes I've had, and the dark fruit notes up front were absolutely delicious, certainly setting this apart from other ryes. I'm glad I finally pulled the trigger on this one and only wish I had done so sooner. 

Grade: B+

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Smoke Wagon Bottled In Bond Straight Rye Whiskey

- $80
- 100 Proof
- 4 Years
- Indiana/Nevada

I have been a big fan of most everything that Nevada H&C Distilling Co. has been putting out in their Smoke Wagon line. The Uncut and Unfiltered is consistently delicious, their limited bottlings have been great, and so far I 've really enjoyed the private picks that I've tried. So, I was very excited to learn they were going to start coming out with rye expressions.

The first that hit was their experimental rye.  Those were 9 year rye whiskeys where they experimented with different char levels and the like. The only problem is they were hitting shelves (so to speak) at $250 per bottle. I had a difficult time justifying that price, and so I passed. I did come across this bottle, which was at a much more approachable $80, but, of course, it's only 4 year old whiskey. I wasn't thrilled about the price, but I did want to give a Smoke Wagon rye a try, so I bit the bullet.

While this was distilled in Indiana, it wasn't the traditional 95/5 rye from MGP. Rather, this was 51% rye  and 49% corn, so nearly a bourbon.  Nonetheless, I still got some of those familiar MGP notes on the nose, including mint and vanilla.  There was a light cinnamon spice to it as well, along with a sweet crackery note, like graham crackers with a bit of added honey sweetness.

As for flavor, the first thing I noted was that this had a nice combination of sweet and heat.  It's a sweeter rye, for sure, though not surprising given the rye to corn ratio. It was very caramel forward, reminding me of Werther's candies. That graham cracker and honey note was there as well.

It was balanced out, though, by a light cinnamon note, though it was never all that spicy. It was more just the cinnamon flavor. The cracker note was fairly predominant and almost muted any spice.  I did not get any of the mint or dill notes that people so often associate with MGP rye, despite having gotten mint off the nose.

The finish was probably the best part, as that's were this became more robust and added a bit of richness. The cinnamon came across more boldly, kind of like a cloves note. That went really well with a sort of baked cherry note. But, of course, all that was paired with the sweetness that stayed throughout, leaving a lingering caramel flavor.

Subjectively, I tend to favor a good, spicy rye over these sweeter ryes. I have, however, had some of the more corn-heavy ryes that I've absolutely loved. This one, however, just leaned too much into the sweet notes for me, such that it lost much of its rye character. That's not to mention that the price was a tough pill to swallow. 

Grade: B-

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Yellowstone Flights Tap Room and Cask n Cellar Private Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $60
- 109 Proof
- 5 years
- Barrel No. 7544564
- Kentucky

There's a chain of liquor stores in Northwest Indiana called Cask n Cellar.  Occasionally I find myself going to Hammond or Schererville for work, and I almost always make it a point to stop in the one I pass on my way home. I do so solely to see what private picks they have in.

I've had a couple from them in the past, and they've all been very good. What I love most, though, is that they have an entire section of their store devoted to displaying their private picks, of which they always have many. And, it's right inside the door as I go in, allowing for quick perusal and selection while I'm trying to get home as quickly as I can.  This particular bottle intrigued me as it's a collaboration with a local taproom, Flights Tap Room and Whiskey Lounge. I've never been, but it's a place I feel I need to find and check out!

The nose was sweet and rich, but also balanced by earthy, more savory notes. I got a healthy amount of toffee up front, but that was balanced out immediately by a dark chocolate note. I also got notes of leather and even some sweet tobacco leaf. It was sweet, but that sweetness was certainly tempered on the nose.

The flavor followed that same trend to some extent.  I definitely got the toffee up front, but it was accompanied by more of a milk chocolate note, leaving behind the bitterness and even adding some sweetness. I got a light coffee note, however, that still brought a bit of bitterness to keep it from ever going too sweet.

Towards the middle I got a tangy amaretto note, sweet and savory all at once.  There was also a certain spice to it, which made its appearance on the back end and lingered long through the finish. It initially was kind of a black pepper spice, but seemed to evolve into more of a chili pepper spice. That seemed to pair with a candied cherry note, which had me absolutely loving the finish. 

This bourbon seemed to work really hard at giving balance among the sweet, savory, spicy and even bitter notes. At times it seemed to simply be all over the place rather than providing a cohesive flavor. However, it all seemed to come together on the finish, which is what had me going back for that next sip.

Grade: B

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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

- $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


- $70
- 130.4 Proof
- 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

- $170
- 125.6 Proof
- 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

- $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

- $80
-93 Proof
- 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

- $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

- $80
- 108.4 Proof
- 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

- $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

- $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

- $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

- $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


- $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

- $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


- $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