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