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

Thursday, July 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B

Monday, July 11, 2022

Jack Daniel's Bonded Tennessee Whiskey

- $36
- 100 Proof
- 4 Years
- Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

Thursday, July 7, 2022

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

- $80
- 100 Proof
- 10 Years
- Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Kirkland 24 Year Sherry Cask Finish Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

- $68
- 92 Proof
- 24 Years
- Speyside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B