Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Weller Full Proof Binny's Single Barrel Select Barrel #323 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $60
- 114 Proof
- Barrel #323
- Kentucky

I have never been a Weller "fanboy." While I certainly do enjoy Weller products, I've never been one to chase after the 12 year, or even the Single Barrel or CYPB, for that matter. That said, for some reason I have loved Full Proof from day one. Perhaps that proof just does make that much of a different. Before Full Proof was a thing, I did prefer the Antique at 107 proof, so it does kind of make sense.

Binny's has had a number of private picks since the Weller Full Proof private barrel program started. I think they may be up to Batch #4 or #5 by now. But, that's just it.  Up until this bottle was released, they had all ben "Small Batch Select" bottlings.  This was the first "Single Barrel Select" Binny's pick, so I was very eager to try to get my hands on a bottle. Plus, I heard that this particular bottle was phenomenal, so the FOMO hit me hard on this one. Luckily for me that was a fear I never realized.  

On the nose I got a great combination of cinnamon liqueur, cherry and dark chocolate. It was sweet but not sweet all at once. In that sense it kind of reminded me of a cherry cordial, where any sweetness is balanced by the booziness of the liqueur and the bitterness of the dark chocolate.  There was also a distinct oak note on the nose, something I don't necessarily recall getting from a Weller Full Proof before. But, it was a sweet oak note, not the kind of tannic note you get from an over-aged bourbon.

The flavor, interestingly, seemed to go a slightly different direction. There I was immediately met with a rich caramel or toffee note that was paired with lush, dark fruit notes. I was getting blackberry and raisin, along with a sweet but lightly tart cherry note. It almost had a Cabernet to it (but did not at all taste like a wine-finished bourbon).

It also had a pastry like quality to it, bready and sweet. Perhaps like a sweet cinnamon roll or perhaps a cinnamon and chocolate chip muffin, but more just the top where it's sweeter. It had that slight yeast note to it, but it paired so well with the toffee and dark fruits as well as that cinnamon. So well, in fact, I would love to have it for breakfast.

The oak did show up on the finish, but again it was a sort of sweet, nutty oak, and not the tannic, drying oak that you sometimes get in old bourbons. The toffee and cinnamon, however, were the main event on the finish, and those flavors remained on my tongue and at the back of my throat seemingly forever.

I didn't want to finish this bottle, because I know once it was gone it was gone for good.  But, once I got down to just a few pours left, I just couldn't help myself, and next thing I knew it was gone. The early reviews on this bottle were dead on. This was a fantastic bourbon!

Grade: A

Monday, April 25, 2022

I.W. Harper Cabernet Cask Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Casks

- $40
- 90 Proof
- Kentucky

I.W. Harper is one of those brands that occasionally I have to be reminded that I like. I think that's more due to their limited line-up than anything. Their standard Kentucky Straight Bourbon is one of my favorite lower shelf bourbons, something I was surprised to learn in a blind tasting.  Of course they have their 15-year bourbon that comes in the fancy decanter as well, but that's a limited release and certainly somewhat pricy.

So, when a new "standard" made its way to the shelves, I figured I had to at least give it a try. The price was certainly approachable at $40, though I wish it could have had a bit more proof. But, you throw a wine finish on it, and I'm going to at least give it a go.  

The nose is, quite frankly, exactly what you'd expect from a wine-finished bourbon. It was brown sugar and caramel layered over red wine notes. The fruity notes from the finish added raisin and plum, even some dates to the aroma.  It even had an oatmeal raisin cookie at times. It was sweet, but it was as soft sweetness that didn't offend.

At 90 proof, I didn't expect this to be a heater or anything. But, it came across as more watered down and thin than expected. And I'm not just talking about the texture. Unfortunately, there was just no boldness in flavor. Nothing really stuck out.  Certainly nothing smacked me in the face with flavor. And with a wine cask finish, that's kind of the point--to add flavor.

Here I did get notes of vanilla mixed with slight notes of dark fruit, again plum and raisin like on the nose. There was a slight cherry note at times, which was really enjoyable. But, I almost had to go searching for it. 

There was a light earthiness in there somewhere as well, kind of like a tea note, and at times more like a sweet tobacco leaf note.  I really enjoyed these notes as well, but everything was just so soft and watered down, I really just couldn't pinpoint anything that particularly stood out.

It may be that going forward I avoid any wine-finished bourbons that are under 100 proof. Perhaps this one is an anomaly, but it seemed to really not benefit from the wine finish, not because it didn't complement the bourbon well, but rather because it wasn't allowed to. I wanted to like this more, and I think a bit more viscosity and heat could have accomplished that.

Grade: C

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Blanton's Straight From the Barrel Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $150
- 127 Proof
- Barrel No. 538
- Dumped on 6-15-18
- Kentucky

This bottle represents a "first" for me.  Perhaps that's why it took me so long to actually finish it.  This was the first bottle I purchased on the much maligned secondary market. Back in 2018, when there was a prolific Facebook group that since got shut down, I got my first taste of access to bottles that I could never get my hands on otherwise. Granted this bottle is now available in the United States. But, back then it was only available in other countries, and not being much of an international traveler, the secondary market was my way of obtaining one.

I actually purchased this along with a gold version.  I subsequently purchased a black and a red version available in Japan only, and my work friends and I did a complete vertical of Blanton's, with the regular single barrel, two different store picks, black, gold, red and two Straight From the Barrel bottles, including this one. That was a hell of a tasting, and this particular bottle was the near-unanimous favorite among the group.

The nose was rich, sweet and spicy, with everything I've come to love about Buffalo Trace's Mashbill #2. There was a sweet and crackery graham cracker note, along with a light chocolate note. That paired perfectly with a nice cinnamon spice and even a touch of red pepper flake. I also got a slight tea leaf note off the nose that added the slightest bit of earthiness to it.

As to flavor, the cinnamon was front and center. It offered both that sweet cinnamon flavor I associate with cinnamon rolls, but also that spicy cinnamon I associate with cinnamon flavored candy. Up front I got a light black pepper spice on the tip of my tongue as well. There was also a light layer of anise that was just the right amount that I found it enjoyable.

The anise and black pepper seemed to fade pretty quickly and made way for the real star of the show. I got an incredible buttery caramel flavor that seemed to coat my mouth and worked to drown out everything else, and for good reason. That note had me wanting more and more and more of this bourbon, and I didn't want it to leave.

Luckily, it did hang around for a really long time. This bourbon had a nice, viscous quality that made for a really long finish, and it was that buttery caramel note that seemed to invade every nook and cranny of my mouth. It also had a slight cinnamon spice on the finish as well, just hanging around at the back of my throat.

This was far and away better than any other Blanton's bottle I've had. It was fun, it was interesting, it was delicious, and it had me constantly wanting more.  I'm salivating as I type this just thinking of that butter and caramel flavor.

Grade: A+

Friday, April 15, 2022

Jack Daniel's 10 Year Tennessee Whiskey

- $80
- 97 Proof
- 10 Years
- Batch No. 10-001
- Tennessee

While it may have occurred in the past (I didn't bother to research, so feel free to Google it for yourself), I have never seen an age-stated Jack Daniel's. So, given that their single barrels and their limited releases have all been hitting home runs the last few years, when this release was announced, I put my feelers out everywhere to make sure I got my hands on a bottle.

I've never really considered myself a Jack Daniel's fan. I've certainly never drank it with any sort of regularity. Heck, I've never even tried the Gold or the Sinatra's Select releases. But, those annual limited edition cask strength releases, both the bourbon and the rye, have been phenomenal. I've also had some amazing store picks. So, while I don't proclaim to be a Jack Daniel's fan, I think deep down inside I just might be. 

I absolutely loved the nose on this. It was very dessert-like.  I immediately got notes of rich toffee and chocolate, along with a sweet nutty note, perhaps like cashews. It wasn't just a nutty Heath bar, though. There was this other aroma there, and the note I wrote down was "kind of a liqueur-soaked yellow cake note."  I don't know if I've had liqueur soaked cake before, but if I did, I'd imagine this is what it would smell like!

As for the flavor, it seemed to go a bit of a different direction. Right away I got sweet wood notes. It didn't have that tannic quality you sometimes get with older whiskeys. This was just the oak influence, but it paired with notes of sweet vanilla and rich caramel.

I thought this actually drank at a higher proof than is stated on the bottle. It had a healthy alcohol burn, even on the final few pours. I found myself double-checking the proof on the label more than once. That said, that heat dissipated quickly and the flavors made themselves noticed.

After having this open for not even a week, it developed an ice cream dessert like flavor. One of my favorite milkshake flavors is chocolate-banana. This reminded me of just that. It, of course, had notes of chocolate and banana (not an uncommon tasting note in a Jack product), but with the vanilla notes and even a bit of a cherry syrup note, this reminded me of a banana split.

In fact, that milkshake/banana split note was all that lingered on the finish as well.  And, while the proof on this didn't break 100, the finish still lasted much like a higher proof whiskey.  

This bottle simply took Jack Daniel's and made it better . . . way better.  While it is certainly on the sweeter end and, in my personal preference, could have used a bit more spice, it is nonetheless one of the better Jack Daniel's products I've had.

Grade: A

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Longrow Red Malbec Cask Matured 13 Year Peated Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch


- $150
- 102.6 Proof
- 13 Years
- Campbeltown

The "Red" series from Longrow is hands down my favorite series among whiskeys.  Every single one has been absolutely fantastic, finding a great balance between the salty smoke of the peat and the rich fruit-forward notes provided by the cask finish. 

This particular one, released in 2017, was matured in Malbec casks. I don't drink wine any more, but when I did, I gave Malbecs a try a few different times. I just did not enjoy them, for whatever reason. So, while I, of course, grabbed this one nonetheless, figuring how bad could it be, I went into it thinking this might be the first one that didn't blow me away. I couldn't have been more wrong, though. This was an incredible dram!

On the nose, the wine notes do seem to overpower the peat smoke, making the smokiness of it almost secondary. The aroma is dominated by rich blackberry and dark cherry, along with a good amount of oak offering a balancing bitterness. The peat is there, but comes across as more of a char note.

The flavor, though, was everything I could have hoped for. This bottle was all sweet, fruity smoke, and I loved it. Cherry and fig dominated the fruity notes, providing a dark and rich sweetness.  And yet, it was never a super-sweet whisky. There was a lot of balance to it, as it also had a cranberry note that added some tartness, and that same oak from the nose to add a bit of earthiness and a touch of bitterness.

What stood out with this bottle, though, was something rich and almost meaty. It reminded me of cherry wood smoked barbecue, or perhaps a reduced cherry barbecue sauce. It had smoke, it had sweet cherry, it had sweet brown sugar and it had barbecue spice. I've never had something like this before, and I wonder how much of that was the Malbec influence. I certainly don't get notes like this from the sweeter Port or Sherry finishes.

This might just be one of my favorite whiskeys I've ever had. The nose was just good, but whatever. It's the nose. The flavor absolutely floored me, with an incredible balance of rich sweetness, peat smoke and spice that made everything go perfectly, like each note had a purpose, even down to the cranberry.  I saved the last pour for quite some time, not wanting to finish the bottle, but now I just may have to track another one of these down.

Grade: A+

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Carl T. Huber's Binny's Private Select Cigar Batch Bourbon Finished in Brazilian Amburana Barrels

- $80
- 112.6 Proof
- 4.5 Years
- Barrel No. FB144-1
- Indiana

I am unapologetically a fan of Starlight Distillery. For a long time I've been enjoying their ryes, and I love that in the last couple of years they are finally getting their due! Starlight has been producing quality whiskey for a long time, and they appear to have been having fun while doing it, offering all sorts of unique or experimental expressions, as well as developing a robust and accessible private barrel program.

This particular bottle falls within both categories, and for that reason alone my interest was certainly piqued.  However, I had no clue what Brazilian Amburana barrels were, and I had to google it while in the whiskey aisle at Binny's just go get some understanding. Apparently Amburana is a very spicy type of wood, one known for imparting all sorts of spice and flavors into whatever is stored in its barrels. It's been fairly big in the brewing world, but this is certainly the first Amburana barrel finish I've seen with whiskey. 

Once I opened this bottle I knew this was something different and unique. I was hit with just a big pile of warm cinnamon raisin bread.  It had all those sweet, bready and cinnamon notes. I also got some hazelnut, but it was more artificial, kind of like a hazelnut candy. There was a thick layer of vanilla, as well as some sweet pipe tobacco and even tea leaves.

The flavor was also very much cinnamon raisin bread. It was just the memory or the recall I had with every sip that I took. The only twist would be that these raisins had been soaked in red wine. There was just a bit more to it.  I also got some sweet caramel notes, and even a sweet bran muffin note from time to time.

As this whiskey opened up, though, the flavor seemed to narrow a bit, focusing on that caramel, on that vanilla from the nose, and on the sweet tobacco note. All of this was layered over a hickory note to add a bit of earthiness to it as well.

On the final pours, I couldn't help but be reminded of hazelnut coffee. Once I got that in my head it was all I kept coming back to. It was that flavor that I couldn't quite put my thumb on, but once I did I couldn't notice anything else.

My take from this bourbon is that this is one of the most interesting and flavorful whiskeys I've ever had. There was so much going on here, and it all worked together, almost as though it was intentionally themed. I don't see this necessarily being for everyone, but this absolutely hit a home run for me, and I definitely want to pick up more of these "Cigar Batch" bourbons from Starlight.

Grade: A

Sunday, April 3, 2022

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

- $90
- 122.6 Proof
- 10 Years, 8 Months
- Barrel No. 244V
- Kentucky

The last time I reviewed a Four Roses private pick, it was the last of the recipes that I needed to try. Now that I've been able to get my hands on and try all ten recipes, I'm no longer on the lookout for any in particular. While I did have my favorites, given that for most recipes I've only had one bottle of each, it's hardly the kind of sampling that can establish a "favorite" recipe.

So, I can now just grab store picks as I find them, starting with this OBSQ that was aged for almost 11 years. I feel like that kind of age hasn't been found in these single barrels lately, so when I had the chance to grab it, I jumped at it. The fun part about having this blog is I can look back at what I thought about prior bottles. The last time I had an OBSQ was back in 2016, and I thought it was pretty good. Rich, sweet and spicy was apparently the takeaway then. I'm not sure this one was all that different in that respect. 

The nose gave way to that rye spice immediately, as I noticed a healthy amount of cinnamon spice right away. There was also a sort of breadiness to it that reminded me of cinnamon toast. It also had other rich and sweet notes as well, including chocolate and even a light, sweet tobacco leaf note. 

The cinnamon carried through on the flavor as well, though it was more like a rich, candy-like cinnamon flavor that was mixed with an amaretto note. The combination was really good and while very rich (I feel like I'm using that word a lot here), it never got to be too sweet.

I also got a slight anise note that at times seemed to come across as more of a candied cherry note. There was an accompanying chocolate note as well, and paired with that amaretto note, it somewhat reminded me of a cherry cordial. 

The finish was, you guessed it, rich. That amaretto note seemed to stick around the longest, which I'm quite alright with as I love amaretto.  The spicy cinnamon also lingered for quite some time at the back of my throat. The finish on this bourbon really seemed to last forever, and I found myself savoring each sip long after I had swallowed.

This was, once again, a very good Four Roses single barrel pick. I have yet to have one that has disappointed, regardless of recipe or who picked it. 

Grade: A-

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Elijah Craig Binny's Private Select 10 Year Single Barrel Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon


- $70
- 127.5 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel No. 6088347
- Kentucky

There's no doubt that I, along with pretty much any other bourbon fan I know, love Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.  While I can't keep up with every release, I tend not to hesitate to grab one whenever I get the chance.  It has that nice mix of age and proof, with the quality backing of Heaven Hill making the whiskey. And the price has always remained relatively reasonable.

When Binny's started getting in single barrel picks of the Barrel Proof, I was all over them. In fact, I ended up getting three different picks, all different ages and proofs. I've had a blast comparing them all side-by-side, and this bottle just happens to be the one that I finished first.  Whether it's my favorite of the three, the jury is still out. I've really liked them all. This one is certainly in the running, though.

The nose was rich and sweet and tangy all at once. I immediately got toffee and orange peel. There was a light smoky or char note, but it remained sweet, like burnt sugar. It also had this spicy but chocolatey note, kind of like a Mexican dark chocolate. 

As to flavor, much like the nose, this was very toffee forward. It was richer than a basic caramel note, and not quite as sweet, though it was still plenty sweet.  It also had a delicious vanilla bean note that kind of underscored everything else. The chocolate note from the nose also came through, though it was sweeter, more like milk chocolate, and it didn't seem to be accompanied by any spice. It did, however, work incredibly well with all the other flavors that were happening.

The heat was certainly present, which is not surprising given the proof. But, it seemed to give way to the other flavors relatively quickly. That said, the spice that may have otherwise been masked then came to the front. I got a distinct black pepper spice that mixed with a root beer note. That combination lingered in the back of my throat long after each sip, and it gave that great sweet and spicy mix.

The toffee note persisted through to the finish as well, though at times it seemed more like a butterscotch. While the spice lingered at the back of my throat, the sweetness lingered on my lips, giving it a nice sweet, lip-smacking finish as well.

Priced about $10 higher than the regular barrel proof releases, though a couple years younger, this was a great buy. The whiskey is fantastic, the pricing is still fair, and the differences from barrel to barrel are fun. I can't wait to keep scooping these up as I find them!

Grade: A