Thursday, June 30, 2022

Cream of Kentucky Estate Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

- $70
- 100 Proof
- 4 Years
- Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: C-

Monday, June 27, 2022

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


- $250
- 114 Proof
- Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A

Saturday, June 25, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Springbank Madeira Cask Matured 17 Year Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

- $250
- 95.6 Proof
- 17 Years
- Campbeltown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A

Monday, June 13, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A

Sunday, June 5, 2022

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

- $120
- 88.6 Proof
- 19 years
- Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+