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