Tuesday, October 3, 2023

- $90
- 100 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel N. 5651821
- Kentucky

This is a bit of a re-visit to this bottle.  I was given the chance to grab a bottle of Rebel 10 years, and I knew that it had been some time since I last had it. Additionally, this bottle was being sold to me in the year 2023, yet it had a fill date of 2009. So, while I was never able to confirm the age, I had a pretty good feeling that what was in the bottle was actually a couple years older than the 10 year age statement on the label.

Additionally, I went back and realized that the last time I had a bottle of Rebel 10 Year was in 2016, when it first came out under the name "Rebel Yell"! I had no clue that it had been that long, so even for that reason alone it was worth the re-visit. That's not to mention that it's a single barrel product, giving me all the more reason to try it once again and put my thoughts to paper. 

The nose was full of rich, sweet notes, like dark chocolate mixed with cinnamon. It even had a bit of an espresso note to it as well, but more so in flavor. It didn't seem to have bitterness that comes with dark chocolate or coffee.  There was also a good brown sugar note, and in a way it smelled a bit like chocolate chip cookies.

The flavor was a bit of a different profile. Right up front I got some sweet oak notes (again, none of the bitterness you so often get with oak notes), as well as a good amount of sweet vanilla bean. It definitely leaned toward the sweeter end of the spectrum right away.  

In fact, at one point I was even getting caramel popcorn notes. Now, it wasn't quite that sweet. My teeth weren't sticking together or immediately developing cavities or anything like that. But that was the kind of sweetness that it had to it. The oak and vanilla definitely gave way to a prominent caramel note, that verry much carried forward from that point.

The finish, however, brought me right back to the nose. That's where the chocolate notes came in, though perhaps more on the milk chocolate end. It's also where the brown sugar and cookie notes came through as well.  

The only thing really missing from this was a spicy note to help balance out all the sweet notes. But other than that, this was a delicious bourbon, one that I've clearly been sleeping on!  And I still find myself giving it the same grade I gave it 7 years ago, which is saying something for the product's consistency!

Grade: A-

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Bernheim Original Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey - Batch A223

- $70
- 118.8 Proof
- 7-9 Years
- Batch A223
- Kentucky

I supposed it was only a matter of time until this became a think. After all, Heaven Hill started releasing Elijah Craig Barrel Proof tri-annually.  It then started releasing Larceny Barrel Proof, which has seen its own share of success. So it only makes sense that they'd release Bernheim Original, one the few and certainly the most popular wheat whiskey out there.

Here, though, I don't know that people were beating their drums demanding a barrel proof version of Bernheim Wheat Whiskey. I just don't believe it's that popular of a product or has that much of a following. That said, the initial feedback I was getting from others upon its release was that it was very good. So, despite not having some deep yearning for it, I decided to give this bottle a go.

On the nose, right away I found it to be very cinnamon forward, which I wasn't necessarily expecting. There was also a distinct pastry note to it, kind of like a cinnamon roll, but not nearly as sweet.  There was a slight spiciness to it, perhaps a black pepper spice. Later on I noticed a vanilla bean note that I really enjoyed.

The flavor wasn't quite in line with the aroma. Right up front I got a distinct bread note, like a sweet wheat bread. More than that, it reminded me of toast. It had that toasted bread flavor, which made the immediately following cinnamon and brown sugar notes all that more welcome. It was like a breakfast snack.

Admittedly, at first I wasn't a huge fan of this. I didn't want to drink bread, even if it did remind me a bit of cinnamon toast.  But, this bottle really grew on me. I think one reason that it is is that it developed a spiciness that I really loved. It was a mix of sweet and hot cinnamon, black pepper and even a bit of that sharp cayenne spice. It added a level that seemed to make this whiskey so much more interesting.

That spice and the sweetness both lingered for quite a while on the finish as well, providing that nice counterbalance. A bit of the brown sugar note stuck around as well, while the grainy bread note seemed to fade away, which was alright with me.

Like I said, at first I was unimpressed, but by about half-way through the bottle I found myself actively wanting a pour whenever I'd go to make my choice of drink for the evening. Whether or not I buy future batches remains to be seen, but I'll certainly give it a thought.

Grade: B

Friday, September 15, 2023

Coppercraft Distillery Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $70
- 113.58 Proof
- Indiana

I've said it before, repeatedly. But, it's worth saying yet again.  I love free whiskey!!  This bottle was a gift from a very good friend of mine who traveled to my place from California via Michigan for the 4th of July. On his way through that mitten-shaped state, he stopped by Coppercraft distillery and picked this bottle up for me, one I had never had before. 

In fact, I don't know that I have had anything from Coppercraft prior to this bottle. But, it's cask strength MGP bourbon, and I was told it was 6 years old (though that remains unverified). In any event, I figured it had to, at the very least, be decent whiskey, and was in all likelihood very good.

On the nose I got a lot of those characteristics I've come to expect from MGP. It had a more spice-forward profile, rather than being sweet.  I got cinnamon and toffee, as well as a bit of vanilla undertone. Despite its youth, I also got a bit of oak, but no bitterness to accompany it. Rather, just a bit of an earthy, woody aroma. It also had a bit of an orange peel note to it, adding just a slight twist to things.

The flavor was pretty on point with the nose. The toffee note seemed to be more up front, however. I expected the cinnamon note to carry the day, but it leaned toward the sweeter end of the spectrum right up front. The vanilla seemed to come forward more than on the nose as well.

However, it didn't take long for that cinnamon spice to come through. As those sweet caramel and vanilla notes subsided, the spicy cinnamon shone through. There was also a rich, dark fruit note, kind of like a mix between cherry and blackberry. But it didn't have any sort of jammy fruit notes to it. Rather, it was just the richness and flavor of the hybrid berry that I was getting.

On the finish the toffee and cinnamon prevailed. None of those rich fruit notes really seemed to linger. Quite frankly, the sweet and spicy notes didn't linger as long as I'd have liked either, as it was a relatively short-lived finish, despite the higher proof.

I think I need to give more Coppercraft products a try. I realize this is sourced, but there's something to be said about a good, sourced whiskey, and this fits the bill.  

Grade: B+

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Batch No. C922

- $65
- 124.8 Proof
- 12 Years
- Batch No. C922
- Kentucky

I have been lucky enough to get my hands on most releases of a couple of the more popular barrel strength releases -- Stagg (formerly Stagg, Jr.) and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.  What's amazing about these two whiskies is that for the most part they've remained fairly reasonable in pricing. They are also both semi-annual releases, so if I don't get a particular one, I know another one will be coming out shortly.

However, I've managed to get a sort of backlog on both.  So, I've been making it a point to start working my way through my sub-collection of ECBP bottles.  It's kind of funny. I just haven't felt compelled to open them sooner, because I already know they're going to be good. It's a bit axiomatic, I guess.  I know it's good, so I drink other stuff instead. But, I'm making it a point to open them and try the different batches, and this one only confirmed what I already knew.

The nose on this was full of sweet cinnamon and oak. It had a nice balance of sweet, dessert-like notes, an earthy and slightly bitter oak note and a cinnamon spice. In fact, it kind of had a barbecue rub type of aroma to it, but one that is heavy on the brown sugar. It even had a little bit of a chili powder note to it. It smelled great, even if a bit unlike most Elijah Craig's I've had.

The flavor really carried that barbecue note forward. I certainly got some cinnamon and oak, though neither were super strong or overwhelming. What really came forward, though, was the brown sugar. It wasn't that brown sugar note that I get off of some Canadian whiskies, though. Instead it was more of a brown butter note. It was sweet and lightly smokey and had a bit of unctuousness to it (I've clearly been watching too much Food Network).

Even the finish had that barbecue feeling to it. The oily texture of the bourbon coated my mouth with that light smokiness and brown butter. But, it also had a bit of a paprika note to really round out that barbecue flavor. I also got cooked cherries on the finish, with a lingering rich sweetness that seemed to perfectly balance out everything else and bring this from a spicy bourbon to a very well-balanced one.

My final thought? Guess what . . . it's good! No surprise there! Perhaps I've had others that have been better (some have been absolutely great), but this one was absolutely delicious, and I kind of appreciated that it was a bit off-profile.

Grade: B+

Monday, August 28, 2023

High West Binny's Barrel Select Double Rye! Finished in Tawny Port Casks

- $70
- 98 Proof
- Finished 9 mos.
- Barrel No. 28124
- Utah

I feel like it's been a while since I've last seen Double Rye! private barrels on the shelves.  I've seen plenty of American Prairie single barrels, most of which were finishes that I wasn't really interested in, such as rum cask or vermouth. And, to be honest, the American Prairie Bourbon barrel selects simply haven't done a whole lot for me overall.

But, I have had some amazing Double Rye! single barrels, with all sorts of finishes from Muscat to Armagnac and even a great tequila finish.  So I knew I had to give this Tawny Port finished Double Rye! a try (and I also grabbed a Cognac finished Double Rye! at the same time).  For me, High West has always done really well with their wine finishing, so I felt pretty good that I'd be getting something delicious here. 

On the nose, the most prominent aroma was raisin. In fact, the nose kind of reminded me of oatmeal raisin cookies, but made with about three times the usual number of raisins. In fact, the raisin or even fig note almost came across as jammy.  But, there was also that baked goods or cookie-like note to go with it, and all in all, it simply smelled great!

While the nose was somewhat straightforward, the flavor was actually a bit more complex.  I definitely got rich, jammy notes, but it wasn't singularly raisins or figs. Instead I actually got heavy notes of cherry and raspberry--very consistent with my experience with anything port-finished. It wasn't overly sweet, though, which I absolutely loved, rather relying on the richness of the dark fruits.

The rye gave it a great cinnamon backbone, and there was also a distinct chocolate note that came through, probably due to the combination of the port and the rye. Interestingly, I also got a certain amount of saltiness.  Certainly nothing that made my mouth pucker, but there was a "lightly salted" tone to everything.

On the finished the baked goods notes really came out, providing not only that oatmeal or Fig Newton flavor, but also highlighting some of those baking spices.  The cherry and raspberry notes fell away just enough to allow me to appreciate everything else going on as I contemplated my next sip.

I once again found myself really enjoying Double Rye! with a wine finish. This bottle certainly reinforced what I already knew--that I'll continue grabbing these when and where I can.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Jack Daniel's 12 Year Tennessee Whiskey


- $90
- 107 Proof
- 12 Years
- Batch 01
- Tennessee

It was just last year that Jack Daniel's released their 10 year whiskey, the first time in my lifetime that they put an age statement on their whiskey. This was a pretty big deal, and the excitement among the whiskey community was pretty high. What made it even better is that the whiskey itself was really damn good!

This year they released once again their 10 year whiskey, and people were once again excited. But, at the same time they also released a 12 year whiskey.  Not only did Jack add two years of age to the whiskey, but he bottled it at a significantly higher proof, clocking in at 107 proof compared to the 97 proof of the previous release.  Now that's how you keep that excitement going! I knew I needed to get my hands on a bottle of this, and I was so glad I did!

On the nose I got this great, sweet blend of brown sugar, cinnamon and black cherry.  The black cherry was almost the kind of flavor you get from a cherry cola, or even a Dr. Pepper. It was rich and sweet, and the cinnamon spice played with it so nicely. I knew upon the first sniff that this was going to be delicious.

The flavor had everything from the nose and more. That rich and sweet cherry note was front and center. It didn't have any of those artificial notes you sometimes get, but rather had more of that Marascino cherry syrup note to it. 

There was a healthy amount of brown sugar to aid in that sweetness but yet not take away from those rich dark fruit notes. The age provided a bit of an oak note as well, which might have actually tempered the sweetness a bit, keeping it from being too sweet.  Interestingly, I didn't get much of those traditional Jack Daniel's notes, that sweet banana note that so many people get, for example. But it wasn't missed, because everything else going on worked so well together. 

The finish was long and sweet and rich and full of that cherry note that I absolutely loved. But, this is where the cinnamon spice came through. It wasn't just that sweet, baked goods type cinnamon. It had some actual kick to it, and it was an incredible way to finish off each sip.  

Once this bottle was opened I had a really hard time not going right back to it every time I stared at my whiskey shelf trying to figure out what to pour next. I wanted to save it, to share with friends.  But it was just too good not to drink. 

Grade: A

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

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

- $90
- 117 Proof
- 11 Years
- Barrel No. 25-3T
- Kentucky

I just can't say no.  At least not to Four Roses single barrel picks. As I've said in the past, they're always really good, and so often great.  Sure, the price has gone up a bit in recent years.  But, even at $90, to get a barrel strength 11 year bourbon from one of the big guys for that price is still a pretty good deal, particularly when you consider similar premium releases that are quickly leaving the shelves at twice the price.

I've had all ten recipes, so at this point I'm just re-visiting them. It's been six years, though, since I last had a bottle of OESO.  So, this isn't much of a re-visiting but more of a trying out OESO once again, pretty much without any frame of reference.  Of course I have this blog, but beyond what I wrote six years ago, I have no independent recollection of this particular recipe from way back then. 

Right up front I got rich, fruity and sweet notes, but it also had a certain boozy liqueur quality to it. It struck me as a cherry cordial type of note right away. On top of that, though, was an oaky note that I can't say I've gotten very often from these Four Roses single barrels, though I really enjoyed it. It also had some of the traditional caramel and vanilla notes to round it out.

The flavor was very much in line with the nose, but ramped up a bit. That cherry cordial note was the first and last thing that I tasted, leaving little room in between. It was the same note I got on the nose, but punched up quite a bit, particularly on the cherry note.

It also came across as more boozy. Not hot, like an alcohol burn. But boozy in flavor, if that makes sense. Kind of like the difference between a regular chocolate truffle and one made with any sort of liqueur. It has that distinct boozy tang to it, and it really complemented the charry note here.

The finished took a bit of a turn, letting that cherry cordial note subside and giving more of a grain and spice-forward experience. It reminded me a bit of cinnamon cereal, kind of like cinnamon toast crunch.  It also took on some sweet oak notes as well as a distinct chocolate flavor. The nice oily texture made for a good, long finish, and it was that chocolate note that seemed to stick around the longest.

This bottle was consistent from beginning to end, and it took on the characteristics of a cherry cordial so well that I found myself getting cravings for this specific bottle some evenings. I can't say that about a lot of whiskeys, and that's what made this one great!

Grade: A

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Starlight Distillery Huber's Old Rickhouse Binny's Private Select Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Finished in Cognac Casks

- $70
- 111.8 Proof
- 4 1/2 Years
- Barrel No. 22-2043
- Indiana

If you've been in a Binny's recently, I'm sure you've noticed rows of their shelves filled with Starlight Distillery picks. They certainly have an influx at the moment of all sorts of picks, from single barrel bourbons and ryes to whiskeys finished in everything from Bourdeaux to cherry liqueur barrels. In fact, they have so many Starlight picks right now, it's almost paralysis by analysis. There are so many options its hard to pick just one.

But, not being one to miss out, I figured I'd go with my mainstays as far as finished whiskey goes. I tend to enjoy the Cognac and Armagnac finishes, particularly on rye barrels. So, seeing this Cognac finished rye among all the other finishes, I played it safe. I could have gone with something different, but again, I wouldn't know where to start.

The nose really showed off that Cognac influence, hitting me right away with scents of orchard fruits like apple and pear. There was also a certain malty backbone, giving it a sort of bread-like aroma. It also had a light caramel sweetness as well as a light note of rich vanilla. I didn't get much of the rye spice I was expecting, but everything else smelled great!

Right up front the pear note came through on the palate, but it was more of a cooked pear. Here the spice came through, with cinnamon and black pepper notes. It also had that caramelization you get with cooked pears, adding a rich sweetness to the fruity note.

I definitely got that malted note as well. It was somewhat bread-like, but sweet and grainy all at once. There was also a distinct white grape note, which became more and more prominent as I made my way through the bottle. As it became more prominent it took on more of a white wine note, a note which seemed to stick out a bit and didn't seem to play well with everything else going on.

The finish proved to be interesting, with a mix of black pepper, orange peel, honey and walnut. It was spicy, earthy, sweet and citrusy all at once. But, it didn't all seem to go well together. It was almost as if each note was there, sitting in its own respective corner, uninterested in playing with those other flavors.

this Cognac finished rye came across as sweeter than I would have wanted, particularly on later pours, and while the flavors were enjoyable, it just didn't come across as a finished, cohesive whiskey. Rather, it was kind of all over, particularly on the finish.

Grade: B-

Friday, August 4, 2023

Springbank 10 Year Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch

- $100
- 92 Proof
- 10 Years
- Campbeltown

I certainly do love my Campbeltown single malts. They've always been tempered a bit on the peat notes, while having a touch of the salinity that you get from your typical Islay single malt. They also seem to always have something more, something I've heard described as a "Campbeltown funk," kind of in the same way I've heard of a "Wild Turkey funk."  Yet I absolutely love that "funk," which to me seems to come across as a mix of apricot and damp ocean notes.

And yet, with all the various Campbeltown offerings I've had and enjoyed over the years, for one reason or another I've never purchased a bottle of its sort of flagship offering, the Springbank 10 Year. So, when given the chance recently, particularly at a time when there wasn't much else being released to catch my eye, I finally grabbed a bottle to enjoy, to finish and to eventually review.

The nose provided that light smoke and salinity I'd expect from a Campbeltown Scotch. It also had some sweet tobacco leaf as well as some sweet and rich butterscotch mixed in, which made for a great combination. There was also something bright and crisp, kind of like a citrusy mix between orange and lemon peel.

The flavor wasn't completely in line with the nose, which was just fine. Right up front I got raisin and apricot, a nice fruity mix of rich and bright notes that seemed to play really well together. There was the expected light smoky note, that seemed to be balanced out by a delicious honey sweetness.

On the finish I got a lot of that raisin and some brown sugar, taking it away from the light honey and apricot sweetness, and more into that rich, molasses-type sweetness.  The raisin note was more of a drunken raisin note, kind of like raisins soaked in amaretto. The shift on the finish was strange, but delicious!

I'm so glad I finally grabbed a bottle.  I've had pours before, but I've never had the opportunity to really get to know this whisky, and it's one that I may be inclined to just keep a bottle as a mainstay on my shelf, even with its price and availability!

Grade: B+

Monday, July 24, 2023

Charleston Distilling Co. Vesey's Liquor 'n' Wine Single Barrel Select Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $50
- 94 Proof
- 4 Years
- Barrel No. 52
- South Carolina

This is one of those bottles where I had never even heard of Charleston Distilling Co., let alone considered trying their products, prior to seeing it on the shelf. Even on the shelf it wasn't something that stuck out to me, and if it weren't for the clerk behind the counter handing me a sample as I perused the shelves, I probably would have never given it a thought.

But, as I stood in that bourbon aisle, I tried that sample he gave me, and it was pretty good. It wasn't great, and it didn't knock my socks off or anything. But, here was this single barrel bourbon, aged at least four years, distilled by the same company bottling it, and it was a private pick. So, for the $50 price tag, I figured this was worth giving a chance.

The aroma carried many of those traditional bourbon notes, including caramel and brown sugar. There was a rich dark fruit note, kind of like a cherry but without the tartness. It also had a nutty note, like walnuts. Altogether, it all made for a surprisingly great nose!

Right up front I got that traditional caramel note, but this was immediately followed by a note that caught me off-guard a bit. At first I thought it was something vegetal, and then it hit me that what I was getting was a coffee note. It wasn't bitter, but it definitely had that flavor.  I was also getting notes of walnut and baked apple, and a whole lot of corn, kind of like corn bread.

On later pours, the apple note took on more of a Granny Smith apple note. It did develop not only some tartness, but also some brightness in the flavor. The caramel persisted, though, which was a nice complement to that Granny Smith note.  It was different, but it was a good different.  With young whiskeys I often get an over-ripe apple note, and that's not what this was. Rather, it was just a good, tart Granny Smith with some caramel.

I didn't get any apple notes on the nose. Rather, the focus there was sweet caramel on the finish, and something that reminded me of sandalwood.  Not that I've spent any time in a workshop cutting sandalwood, but if I did, I'd imagine that the taste of the air is the flavor I was getting here. The cornbread note also stuck around a bit, making for a kind of an odd, disjointed finish.

Overall, I left this bottle thinking I'd like to try more of what Charleston Distilling has to offer. While it seemed to stray from traditional bourbon notes, it was still quite tasty, and I found myself enjoying pour after pour.

Grade: B

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Smoke Wagon Rare and Limited Single Vintage Blend 8 Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch #1

- $99
- 118.9 Proof
- 8 Yrs.
- Batch #1
- Indiana

This is one of those bottles where I didn't realize how lucky I was to get my hands on it at the time. This came out at a time when Smoke Wagon was just starting to hit its peak. Only the early releases of Uncut Unfiltered had come out, and the limited release Desert Jewel, which was amazing by the way, had only just come and gone. 

In fact, when my local guy brought this bottle out of the back for me, I wasn't even aware that it was a thing. But, I was immediately drawn to the age, the proof, and of course the jingly blue medal draped around the bottle's neck (actually, it's more annoying than anything, but it didn't make me NOT want to buy it). This was one of those bottles that I held onto for longer than necessary, as it had been open for almost a full three years. But it was one that I didn't want to see go away--one of those once-it's-gone-it's-gone-for-good whiskeys.

The nose was rich and sweet, full of notes of toffee and semi sweet chocolate. It was like a Heath bar, but not quite as sweet. It also had a decent amount of oak on the nose, particularly for only an 8 year old whiskey. There was a slight cinnamon note to spice it up, as well as a maraschino note to add just a little bit of pop of rich cherry in the aroma.

The palate didn't quite match. I went in expecting something rich and boozy, like you might get at one of those fancy chocolatiers. Instead up front it was more earthy, with notes of damp pine and leather. It was, dare I say, funky. It also had a decent amount of oak up front to add to the profile. I was really thrown off by this.

Once past that initial flavor, though, there were some of those sweet notes I was expecting, like the rich toffee notes. The chocolate note came through as well, but more like a rich brownie batter than a bitter dark chocolate. There was even a black licorice note that, quite frankly, worked really well with the earthy notes.

The finish on this bourbon absolutely won me over, though. It coated my mouth in this sweet candy caramel that seemed to last forever. Mix that with the rich brownie note that stuck around, and it was just an incredible dessert of a finish. I did find myself going right back for another sip just to keep enjoying that finish.

This was a weird one to grade, because the nose didn't match the palate, it was funky but not bad up front, but the finish was absolutely incredible. But, I often judge a whiskey, at least in part, by how badly I want that next pour or sip, and this one was up there on that scale. 

Grade: B+

Saturday, July 1, 2023

O.K.I. Reserve Blended Bourbon Whiskey - Batch 01

- $90
- 100 Proof
- Batch 01
- Indiana

It seems forever ago that I enjoyed a bottle of O.K.I. Reserve Bourbon. That's the brand that New Riff released its sourced whiskey under when it was a fledgling distillery and was waiting for its own whiskey to age. I'm still astonished that at the time we could get a bottle of 10 Year MGP bourbon for only $50!  Of course, that was back in 2017, and a lot has changed since then.

When New Riff started putting out its own whiskey under its own name, it no longer released whiskey under the "O.K.I. Reserve" name, and eventually the last of it disappeared from the shelves. That is, until recently when a new company bought the rights (presumably) and resurrected the brand. Admittedly, I knew very little about the whiskey itself before purchasing my bottle, but some quick research told me it had been received pretty favorably. So, I was willing to give this new iteration a try.

The nose gave off rich notes of cinnamon spice and chocolate. It also had this sweet, caramel-type cola note.  All of this blended together into a rich and delicious combination that immediately made my mouth water. There was also a great nutty note, like a candied pecan, that at times even leaned towards a delicious-smelling pecan pie note.

The flavor followed suit, to some extent. It led with rich and sweet notes of toffee and caramel. It also had that cola note that I got from the nose. Those rich toffee notes were accompanied by a sweet and spicy cinnamon note, kind of a mix between cinnamon sticks and cinnamon candy. Right away this one seemed to be right in my wheelhouse.  

At times the cola note seemed to lean more towards a root beer note, and I even got a light oak note from time to time, showing some of the age of the whiskeys that were mixed into this blend. There was also a nice undercurrent of vanilla to complement everything else going on.

On the finish, the wood notes seemed a bit more prevalent, along with the rich toffee. While the cinnamon spice didn't linger too much, the vanilla notes were a bit more prevalent, and very welcome. I certainly found myself quickly going in for that next sip.

Overall, I really enjoyed this bourbon. I think the proof, despite being lower, was quite right. It had a great viscosity and a great balance of flavor and sweetness.  

Grade: A-

Monday, June 19, 2023

Eagle Rare Binny's Single Barrel Select Barrel #044 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $35
- 90 Proof
- 10 Years
- Barrel #044
- Kentucky

Eagle Rare is the bourbon that got me into bourbon. It was the one that opened my eyes to a world beyond Scotch, and now bourbon absolutely dominates my whiskey shelf in my basement. So, it should then come as no surprise that Eagle Rare still holds a special place in my hear and always will.

And, for that reason, I grab every Eagle Rare store pick that I can find. Granted, this was a much more fruitful venture a few years ago.  It seems now that Eagle Rare picks are not only few and far between, but are also being treated as highly allocated whiskeys, only getting into the hands of select customers. I was lucky enough, though, to get my hands on this Binny's release back in 2020.  Given their relative scarcity, I waited a bit to finally open it, but eventually they all get opened at some point.

The nose on this one was great.  I got notes of vanilla and cinnamon, along with a great bready note. It definitely had a cinnamon roll thing going on. There was something else as well, though. I got candied pecan along with a definite cherry note, like a Maraschino cherry Everything seemed to blend together like a Danish and cinnamon roll hybrid.

As to flavor, the cherry note from the nose seemed to take center stage. It still had that Maraschino lean to it, along with a bit of a syrupy sweetness.  There was something tangy and boozy about it as well, kind of like amaretto liqueur.  The pecan note was there as well to offer a nutty quality, and even a touch of bitterness, but without the sweetness.

The tangy bite at times came across as an orange peel notes, and other times like tart cherry. At times it had that bitter bite that you sometimes get when eating walnuts.  As great and perfectly complementary all the notes on the nose were, I couldn't say the same thing for the flavor.  This seemed a bit all over the place, and the bitter notes didn't seem to balance out the sweetness, but rather competed with it.

On the nose the boozy note really seemed to come through, but it was more as a cherry liqueur than amaretto. The problem with this, though, is it seemed more like an artificial cherry note, and that's the flavor that seemed to linger on the finish, along with a lightly bitter oak note. The finish left a bit to be desired.

This was not my favorite barrel of Eagle Rare. That said, even lesser showings are still pretty good, and this bottle was not long for this world once it was finally opened.

Grade: B-

Monday, June 12, 2023

Stagg Jr. Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Batch No. 16


- $60
- 130.9 Proof
- Batch No. 16
- Kentucky

Over the past few years I've managed to accumulate a pretty nice lineup of Stagg Jr. and what is now just Stagg.  Between the regular releases and store picks, I ended up with seven different bottles without even realizing it. I guess it's the burden of a bourbon collector, but certainly a good burden to have.

So, realizing this backlog of Stagg on my shelf, it was certainly time to start opening and drinking them. They are doing me no good just sitting there on the shelf. The question then became, do I try them one at a time, or open a bunch and compare? Perhaps after this one I'll go the latter route, but for now I just opened up this Batch 16 bottle and enjoyed it pour after pour. 

The nose gave off everything I've come to love about Stagg, a certain consistency with all of their releases. Right up front I got rich, dark chocolate along with a dark cherry note. But, it wasn't that artificial cherry that I get in some other bourbons. It was just rich and spicy dark cherry, like the kind baked into a pie. I also got sweet notes of toffee as well as a cloves spice that really had my mouth watering.

I did find this release to be more cherry-forward in flavor than other releases.  I guess that should have come as no surprise given how prominent that note was on the nose. There was a dark chocolate note that accompanied it, along with a vanilla note. All together it gave of a cherry cordial note that was sweet and rich and decadent.

To further that cherry cordial note, there as a bit of an amaretto note as well, to add just a touch of booziness as well as a light tanginess to it.  Unfortunately, though, I didn't get that great cloves note I was getting on the nose. Stagg has always had a certain spiciness to it that has always put it right in my wheelhouse, and from the nose I thought this going to give me that. But, that is the only area where this one fell flat.

Even on the nose there wasn't that lingering cinnamon or cloves spice I was hoping for. Rather, as the cherry notes faded, I was left with a chocolate and amaretto flavor coating my mouth. Don't get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious, but I really did want that spice, particularly on the back end.

Now that this bottle is done, I can only wonder what the hell I was waiting for on these. I think tonight I've got myself an easy choice for my first pour.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Bushmills 12 Year "Triple Wood" Single Malt Irish Whiskey

- $50
- 80 Proof
- 12 Years
- Ireland

It's not often that I find myself purchasing Irish whiskey. There's no particular reason for it, I guess just that there aren't many brands where I feel I must have particular releases. Of course, I love some well-aged Redbreast, and I've certainly tried all of the "Spots" I've been able to get my hands on.  But, it's just not the aisle of the liquor store that draws my attention. 

Of course that changes when St. Patrick's day is coming. We planned on having neighbors over for food and drinks to celebrate, and having only a bottle of Gold Spot on my shelves to offer my visitors, I felt the need to pick up at least one more bottle. So I came home with this, a 12 year Irish whiskey aged in Oloroso sherry casks and bourbon barrels before finishing in Marsala casks. I figured there's a lot going on there, and even at 80 proof, this should still pack a good amount of flavor.

With my first pour I noticed right away a bright and fruity aroma. The Sherry and Marsala casks definitely made their influence known, as I got raspberry and strawberry, along with a sweet honey note. There were also traditional malt notes of sweet tobacco leaf and butterscotch, but there was also a distinct vanilla note along with a light black pepper note, perhaps showing some of the ex-bourbon cask influence.

At only 80 proof, this whiskey unsurprisingly came across as thin and watery. Despite that, it packed a very good punch of flavor. That raspberry note came through right away, but it also had a bit of tartness to it, kind of like a cranberry note.  Once again, those Sherry and Marsala casks made their influence known, but it was far from overdone.

The sweet tobacco note also came through right away, and it seemed to be sweetened by a bright honey note. There was also a sort of sweet tea flavor that I got, adding a sort of earthy but sweet note that worked really well with the bright berry notes.

On the finish the tea notes certainly came through, but the sweetness seemed to fade a bit. It was more like a basic black tea. Some of the raspberry notes lingered, but even those were faded as well.  What I really noticed, and couldn't avoid once noticed, was a weird metallic note. I'm not completely sure how to describe it other than that, but there was something definitely metallic that bugged me.

For an easy-to-find, off-the-shelf Irish whiskey, this is a crowd pleaser. Everyone that tried it loved it, as it's very approachable at a low proof and offers sweet and bright fruit notes that even a non-whiskey drinker might appreciate. In the end, though, I had a hard time moving past that weird metallic finish that seemed to linger.

Grade: C+

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Russell's Reserve Binny's Private Selection Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $60
- 110 Proof
- 9 1/2 Years
- Barrel #22-0917; Warehouse B
- Kentucky

I've said it before, many times, but it's worth repeating.  When you find a Russell's Reserve pick on a shelf, grab it! They are just so consistently delicious!  Any time I'm traveling out of state and happen into a liquor store (yes, sometimes I just "happen" to go into one), I make it a point to see what store picks they might have available.  And, if I'm at a larger store where I have options, I then look for my go-to store picks, starting with Russell's Reserve single barrels.

While this wasn't one of those on-the-road finds, it was nonetheless an immediate purchase. On any given day Binny's will have dozens of available store picks to choose from. In fact, they have so many that it can at times result in paralysis by analysis, just trying to pick one to bring home. When they get them, the Russell's picks, however, are not going to be just "sitting there," at least not for long. So I was grateful to get my hands on this bottle. 

On the nose, I immediately got a rich and sweet combination of cinnamon, toffee and cherry notes. It was like some great combination of two of the better selections from an assorted chocolate tin!  The cherry took on kind of a Maraschino note which only added to the richness. I also got notes of wood, but not strong and lacking in any bitterness.

From first sip and throughout, the flavor consistently reminded me of cherry pie. It had the notes of rich, baked cherry, including that Maraschino note I got from the nose. There was certainly a baked goods quality to it as well, lending to the pie crust note that accompanied that cherry. There was even a rich, sweet syrup quality to it that seemingly rounded out that flavor. I couldn't get enough!

Behind that there was a certain cereal flavor to it as well. It mad me think of toasted Cheerios, which is a staple movie-watching snack in my household (and, therefore, may not be very relatable).  There was also a sort of dustiness, perhaps what others think of as the Wild Turkey funk. It's a funk that I've always loved, though, so to me it was welcome, even if only to counter some of the sweetness.

The finish provided some of that cinnamon spice that I was getting on the nose, but most prevalent was that baked cherry note that was consistent throughout. The pie crust note I was getting earlier took on a bit more of a graham cracker note, but it was still pretty delicious.

I have numerous bottles on my shelf that have been open for quite some time, years even. This, however, was not one of those bottles. This bottle lasted less than a week after opening it. I just couldn't help but keep going back to it.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Bardstown Bourbon Company Origin Series Kentucky Straight Rye

- $60
- 96 Proof
- 6 years
- Batch 1 - Distilled Spring 2017
- Kentucky

When Bardstown first released its initial Origin Series bottlings, a high rye bourbon and a wheated bourbon, I jumped at getting them. I opened the high rye bourbon and really enjoyed it! Though I haven't opened the wheated bourbon yet, I've heard good things about that one as well. So, I was certainly eager to try the rye when that was subsequently announced as the next offering in their Origin Series. 

This rye is finished in toasted cherry wood and oak barrels. I didn't know that going in, and I was intrigued upon reading it on the label. What I found more intriguing, though, was the mashbill (which, by the way, I love Bardstown for including on every product of theirs).  This is a 95/5 mashbill, meaning its made of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, much like MGP, whose rye whiskey I've grown to love. So I was really excited to try this to see how it stacks against that other 95/5 rye. 

On the nose I immediately got many of those same notes I'm accustomed to getting from MGP. I got notes of mint as well as a light dill note. Luckily, that dill note did not dominate as I've gotten in some bottles. This did not lean "green" in any way. It also had a very healthy amount of vanilla, giving it a bit of a bourbon quality. It smelled like a rye, certainly, but one that leaned sweeter. I did not get a whole lot of spice on the nose. 

As to flavor, right up front I got that same mint and vanilla. The mint was bright and sweet, and in many ways reminded me of mint ice cream, or perhaps a Shamrock Shake.  I happen to love Shamrock Shakes and look forward to that wonderful time of year when I can actually get them, so while it may sound like a weird whiskey tasting note, I was nonetheless a big fan!

The vanilla was accompanied by some spice as well, kind of like pepper and ginger, perhaps a bit of cinnamon. It all seemed to combine to create a cream soda flavor which, on later pours, seemed to lean more towards a root beer note. This was about the only time that the flavor combinations got a touch weird, but it was still good.

On the finish a cinnamon spice, which had been oddly missing up to this point, finally made a very welcome appearance. The mint notes subsided, but the vanilla notes lingered, providing for a sweet and spicy finish that left a very nice taste in my mouth.

All in all, for their first rye under this line and for the fairly accessible price, this was a very good rye that I would certainly recommend any rye-lovers give a go!

Grade: B+

Monday, May 15, 2023

WhistlePig Piggy Back Legends Series Brothers Osborne 6 Year Single Barrel Rye Whiskey

- $55
- 96.56 Proof
- 6 Years
- Canada

It wasn't too long ago I got invited to a buddy's house to do a whiskey tasting.  Little did I know when I accepted the invite that the tasting would include 9 different WhistlePig single barrels! The other eight were all single barrel picks of regular WhistlePig, but this particular barrel of Piggy Back was also in the mix, and I enjoyed it so much I found myself picking up a bottle the next day.

Admittedly, I had no clue at the time who Brothers Osborne was. I had to look it up, and when I learned they were country music artists, it made all the more sense why I had no idea who they were. That said, they got their name associated with a single barrel of WhistlePig Piggy Back, along with the tag of "Legends Series." Good on them!

The nose was great! I got a lot of those notes I typically associate with a rye, including cinnamon and pine as well as a touch of spearmint. I also got some sweet vanilla bean notes that provided a great, softer note. It also gave it a sweetness to help offset some of the spice I was getting. 

When I took my first sip, right up front I got a bunch of brown sugar. It also had a bit of cinnamon spice right on the tip of my tongue, but it came across as almost boozy or syrupy. It almost reminded me of a cinnamon liqueur.  That combination of sweet and spice right up front had me hooked.

Behind that I got a rich and sweet amaretto note. Perhaps it was a bit of a carry-over from that liqueur note I got right up front, but it was unexpected and deliciously welcome. It also had a bit of a coffee note, but a sweetened coffee.  It reminded me of an Irish cream coffee, with good coffee flavor but any bitterness removed.

This whiskey finished with cinnamon spice as well as those sweet brown sugar notes. The light mint I got on the nose finally made its appearance on the finish as well. Interestingly, I got a distinct rosemary note on the finish (a first for me). This was particularly noticeable when I exhaled. It was certainly different, but I enjoyed it.

Overall, this was a really good whiskey at a really good price. I probably wouldn't have grabbed it off the shelf if I hadn't tried it first, but I'm sure that can be said about a lot of whiskeys. Whether you're a fan of Brothers Osborne or not, certainly give this single barrel a try if you come across it. It was really a pleasant surprise.

Grade: B

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Kentucky Owl 10 Year Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey - Batch No. 03

- $140 (MSRP - $180)
- 114 Proof
- 10 Years
- Batch No. 03
- Kentucky

When Kentucky Owl their first batch of their rye, an 11 year cask strength expression, I was thrilled to get my hands on one. At that time Kentucky Owl was at the peak of its hype, with people fighting to get their hands on those $300 bottles of bourbon. The release of a rye, not to mention a well-aged, cask strength rye, certainly benefitted from that hype. That said, the whiskey inside was quite good, and I found I really enjoyed what they had done.

But, after just a few releases, it quickly lost its luster. The market for high-end, high-priced ryes just didn't support $140+ bottles, even with the age statement. And so, subsequent releases, including this Batch No. 03, seemed to sit on shelves or in the locked cabinets just waiting for someone to come along. It didn't help that the price kept climbing as well.  I was able to pick this one up on sale at $140, which was still very steep. But at $180, the original price for this release, I could never convince myself to pull the trigger.

That said, I got it at a discount, and I got it to drink. So, eventually I got around to popping the cork just this past New Year's Eve, when my brother-in-law and I had a handful of high-end ryes to sip on for the night. Right away I could tell that, much like the earlier release I had, this was on the sweeter end for a rye. I got brown sugar and peanut, along with something light and fruity, kind of like melon.  But, there was a touch of rich cherry mixed in as well.  Notably, it had a very strong malty backbone.

Luckily for me, it had much more spice on the palate than on the nose (I tend to lean towards the spicier ryes).  Right up front I got a healthy dose of cinnamon, and the cherry note was also more prominent in the flavor than it was on the nose. It was still sweet, with notes of caramel accompanied by unsweetened vanilla.

But, it maintained a lot of the rye characteristics. In addition to the cinnamon notes I got right up front, I got a bit of mint. It wasn't a lot, but it was there. However, the malt notes made their way forward, and it developed a distinct cereal note, kind of like Cheerios.

On the finish, the cinnamon came across more like cloves, and that spice note lingered for quite a while. The mint, which had not been strong at all, was much more prominent on the finish, leaving almost a cooling sensation in my mouth.  That mint was accompanied by a very welcome vanilla notes as well.  This combination of flavors really made for a great finish!

This is a very good rye, don't get me wrong. But, I'm glad I didn't pay full price, as that's just a lot to ask. Well-aged whiskeys are somewhat hard to come by, but even today they don't seem to be commanding quite the price that this one was asking, and that's why it sat as long as it did.

Grade: B+

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Remus Gatsby Reserve 15 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey

- $250
- 97.8 Proof
- 15 years
- Kentucky

I never did get my hands on the Volstead Reserve that MGP (now Ross & Squibb) had released, its entry in to the super-premium bourbon market. But, I heard some really good things about it. And when I was offered a bottle of Remus Gatsby Reserve, I was really excited . . . and then I saw the price tag. $250 is a hefty price to pay for any whiskey to be sure.  And this was one I hadn't tried yet.  But, I had the benefit of a recent bonus from work, and I decided to splurge.  I was too intrigued by not only the age, but the fact that it was cask strength at only 97.8 proof. So not a heater, but not watered down in any way.

This came in some fancy package with a box that kind of splits open from the top. It's a nice hefty bottle and it came with a solid, really heavy stopper. I normally don't give a shit about packaging, but I tell you all this because, as I was carrying it into my house, I grabbed it by the top of the box, which separated from the base, and the bottle went tumbling, bouncing off a shelf, then my step into my house, and ultimately on to the cement floor of my garage. My stomach sank as this happened! But, the only damage was that the heavy, paperweight of a stopper separated from the cork. While I hate that box, the sturdy bottle held up and prevented what would otherwise have been a costly disaster!!

But, on to the whiskey!  Unfortunately for this bottle, my first couple pours were enjoyed with some other, high-end whiskeys, some very good whiskeys, and this one got lost in the shuffle. However, I did make it a point to give this a go on its own, and it really is a damn good bourbon! The nose was full of brown sugar and caramel, rich and sweet. It also had some delicious cherry notes. But the spice was the most interesting part. I got some black pepper that tickled my noes, but also rich clove spice and even root beer notes.  The nose was very complex and smelled great!

The flavor really seemed to grab ahold of those root beer notes I was getting on the nose. In fact, the first notes that I jotted down were that it tasted like root beer candy. It reminded me of root beer flavored Dum Dums, and certainly brought back some childhood memories. It also had a bit of a butterscotch note to it, which isn't too far of a divergence from root beer, but nonetheless added to that hard candy sweetness.

As the bottle opened up, and as I enjoyed more pours of this, I found that the sweetness did subside a bit, allowing the spice to shine through much more. I got that black pepper spice, particularly on the finish. But the cloves note seemed to eventually make its way through as well, to the point that by the end it was taking more of a center stage.

There were some oak notes, but only in flavor, never in bitterness. And I found that those oak notes lingered most on the finish, along with a rich caramel note and a bit of that clove spice. Despite the low proof, each sip seemed to really coat my mouth in all of these flavors, and the finish was quite enjoyable!

I still hate the price tag on this (and while I try not to let price factor into my final rating, sometimes you just can't help it). I certainly don't see myself spending that on a similar product in the future.  But, this was still a really good whiskey, albeit an expensive one, and I'd certainly urge you to try a pour if you get the chance!

Grade: B+

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Castle & Key The Woolgatherer Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Vino de Naranja Barrels

- $75
- 115.4 Proof
- Kentucky

On my most recent trip to Kentucky I made it a point to do the tour at Castle & Key. I had never been, and I was certainly eager to check out the grounds of the old E.H. Taylor distillery, and, of course, the castle itself.  I will say, that tour exceeded my expectations! The distillery and the grounds are absolutely beautiful!  They did an incredible job restoring that property!  And the history of the property is compelling and made for a really enjoyable tour!

Of course, at the end of the tour we took part in a tasting, and, oddly enough, I found I really liked their gin. But afterwards we perused the gift shop, and I saw this bottle on the shelf. Our tour guide saw me looking at it, and she offered to bring me back into the tasting room to try a sample. Needless to say, I was impressed not only with the flavor but the uniqueness of this whiskey, and a bottle made its way back to Illinois with me. 

This is not a super-high rye at 63%, so some of the sweeter notes were allowed to come through, and that was definitely the case with the nose. Right up front I got sweet notes of brown sugar and, not surprisingly, orange. It definitely had a bit of an old fashioned aroma to it, but with some vanilla added as well. I did not get "orange creamsicle," as the back label suggested, but it definitely had a nice nose.

Quite frankly, I didn't get the "orange creamsicle" in the flavor either, which was just fine by me, as I tend to avoid overly sweet whiskeys. And, quite frankly, initially my reaction to this whiskey was that it was just okay. But, this was one of those bottles that seemed to just get better with every pour.

Despite it not being a high-rye whiskey, it nonetheless had a healthy dose of cinnamon spice, both on the front end and the back end. That cinnamon spice was paired with a rich, brown sugar sweetness to keep it from ever getting either too spicy or too sweet.

Of course the orange was there, but again, not the sweet, artificial orange flavor, but rather bright and even slightly bitter orange peel, and even a bit of burnt orange. It definitely had that old fashioned quality to it, and it did, in fact, make for a pretty tasty old fashioned, leaning right into the Angostura bitters.

On the finish, the cinnamon spice certainly came through, and that burnt orange note lingered as well. But it was here that, while I don't believe this is a very aged whiskey, it provided some oak notes, a bit of earthiness and bitterness to continually balance the orange and brown sugar notes. 

I don't know that I'll come across this again, but this was a fun bottle to enjoy.  It was not only something different and unique, but it was really good! And by the time I got to the end of the bottle, I was a bit disappointed that it was over.

Grade: B+ 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Elijah Craig Small Batch Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Batch A120

- $60
- 136.6 Proof
- 12 Years
- Batch No. A120
- Kentucky

I've said it before, and, quite frankly, it doesn't need to be said, but Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is consistently some of the best whiskey out there. And, given that it's a tri-annual release, while it is an allocated product, it is far from impossible to find. Plus, the price hasn't jumped (yet) like we've seen with so many other products.

In fact, I've managed to collect a bit of a backlog of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bottles between the normal releases and store picks. And the other day, I questioned why I wouldn't have at least one of them open at any given moment. So, rather than ponder the question, I decided to just go ahead and open one, starting with the oldest one on my shelf, this Batch A120 from January 2020.

As soon as I popped that cork I was hit with aromas of oak and cinnamon, along with a rich, dark sweetness that was like a molasses note. In addition to the cinnamon spice, there was also a black pepper spice to add some kick, along with some sweet vanilla notes. This was a great combination!

When I took my first sip, right away I was hit with a healthy dose of sweet, dark caramel, calling back to that molasses note from the nose. It also had a bit of that black pepper bite immediately on the tip of my tongue. There was a layer of richness as well, kind of like a dark chocolate note, keeping it somewhat sweet but nowhere near a dessert whiskey.

There was also something earthy or nutty, kind of like a mix between peanut and walnut.  There was also a bit of a tea leaf note that was interesting and added a bit of tanginess to the profile. These flavors all worked great with the caramel, black pepper and dark chocolate that persisted throughout.

The finish reminded me very much of tiramisu.  The tea note kind of took on more of a coffee liqueur note, and was accompanied by notes of vanilla and dark chocolate. That black pepper spice also found its way into the finish, adding some spice and giving me a reason to quickly go back for that next sip!

This certainly reminded me of just how well these releases are done, and, quite frankly, I think as soon as I'm done writing this I'll go pop open the next one!

Grade: A

Thursday, April 13, 2023

One Eight Distilling Untitled Whiskey No. 17

- $80
- 115.8 Proof
- 10 Years
- Batch 1
- Washington D.C.

When One Eight Distilling's Untitled Whiskeys started hitting shelves a couple years ago, they got decent enough hype that I certainly became curious. I remember seeing private select single barrels, and their batches, such as this one, had some incredible finishing combinations, usually with bright, fruity and rich finishes such as sherry, port or cognac. What I had up to this point was all really good and, at the very least, really interesting.

It wasn't long after that initial run that I picked up this bottle, Untitled Whiskey No. 17.  This one is a blend of a 10 year old wheated bourbon that was finished in rum, Calvados and Cognac casks along with a 14 year high rye bourbon finished in Amontillado sherry butt. That's a whole lot going on inside this bottle. I wasn't sure if it would all work together or if it would be too much, but I was certainly willing to find out!

The nose on this was impressively rich. I feel like I use that word a lot in these blog posts, but this is quite possibly the richest nose I've ever nosed, bull of dark chocolate mixed with various dark fruits, including blackberry and cherry, fig and raisin, and even plum. It even had a bit of clove to it that made all those fruit notes come across like a spiced wine.  I couldn't get enough of this nose. I want to make a candle out of it!

While the flavor was very rich itself, it seemed that the spicy notes came through a bit more. I definitely got the dark fruit notes. Blackberry and dark cherry seemed prevalent, even with a bit of a sour note accompanying that cherry flavor.  

But, what took center stage was the spice. Cinnamon and black pepper spice seemed to dominate this. At times I feel like I even got a chili pepper note. This certainly gave that spice-wine character, just heavy on the spice. Dark chocolate notes also came through, providing a bit of a backbone and somewhat tempering the spice notes.

Towards the back end, the dark chocolate notes carried through as the cinnamon and black pepper subsided a bit. I also got some nutty, earthy notes, like walnut and almond. And it was on the finish that the sweetness came through, kind of a molasses note.

There was a lot of really good "stuff" happening here. I liked those wine notes, the dark fruit notes, and the dark chocolate notes.  Something about this blend, however, just didn't quite work. I'm not sure if one of the finishes had more influence than others. Perhaps it's the rum finish that I didn't like, as I have yet to find a rum finished rye or bourbon I've liked. But there was something about this that just didn't work, just didn't quite bring all of those great flavors together into something cohesive. 

Grade: B-

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Smoke Wagon Malted Straight Rye Whiskey

- $90
- 119.54 Proof
- Batch No. 26
- Indiana

I have certainly been a fan of Smoke Wagon ever since they came onto the scene.  It started with the Desert Jewel release, which was absolutely fantastic. From there I tried the Uncut & Unfiltered Bourbon as well as the Small Batch Bourbon, and I really enjoyed those as well.  Generally speaking, their bourbons have been fantastic and I've encouraged many a drinker to give them a try.

Being the rye guy that I am, I was naturally excited when Nevada Distilling began releasing Smoke Wagon ryes. They released some experimental ryes, but I wasn't willing to pay the price that those were commanding (just south of $300 if I can recall correctly).  But, the Bottled-in-Bond Rye and this Malted Straight Rye were at least a bit more approachable in price, though, admittedly, even the $90 price tag on this one is a bit steep.  But, I really wanted to give it a try, so in my cart it went.

The very first note that I jotted down in my Notes app when I brought this to my nose was "weird smell." Right up front I got pine nuts and black pepper. But, there was something mossy to it, almost damp smelling, like walking through a forest after a few days of rain. That wouldn't be so bad, but I also got a bit of a nail polish remover smell that really put me off.  I was not a fan of the nose on this one at all.

As to flavor, luckily that nail polish remover note wasn't there at all. There was, however, that pine note, along with a bit of a malt note, almost like there was a some Scotch blended in.  I guess that's not too surprising given the mashbill of 51% rye and 49% malted barley. That pine and malt, however, was mixed with something sweet, kind of like a maple syrup but not quite as sugary. This, again, was weird in that it kind of worked and kind of didn't.

On the finish I got a spicy and sweet cinnamon note, kind of like a cinnamon schnapps (taking me back to the days when it was fun to drink Goldschlager--I shudder at the thought now).  The maple syrup persisted as well, giving it that sweet and spicy profile.  In a weird way (apparently weird is the theme here), I kind of liked the finish.  The damp, mossy note went away, and even the pine notes faded letting the rye notes finally shine through. 

But, by the time I got to the finish, it was a bit too late. While it did get progressively better from nose to finish, in the end this just came across as, you guessed it, weird, and I certainly didn't feel it warranted the $90 price point.

Grade: C-

Monday, April 3, 2023

Eagle Rare 17 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 2020

- $120
- 101 Proof
- 17 Years
- Kentucky

This is one of those bottles that I felt luck to have been able to obtain. It is Eagle Rare, after all, that really opened my eyes to the bourbon world. Having started my whiskey journey in the Scotch world, it wasn't until a local liquor store clerk suggested that I give Eagle Rare a try that I really started trying out and learning about bourbon.

Eagle Rare is still one of my favorite under $50 bottles, and it's always one of the top three whenever I'm asked for that recommendation. This bottle, of course, takes that up a notch or four. It obviously ups the age from 10 years to 17 years, which is no small jump. But, it also punches up the proof from 90 proof  101 proof.  It's a much older and stronger Eagle Rare, and I couldn't wait to try it. Although I opened this bottle immediately when I got it, I held onto the last three or so pours for a really long time, simply not wanting it to be gone. But, all good things must come to an end, so finally the other night I shared the last few pours with good friends and called it a day.

The age on this bourbon was immediately noticeable on the nose. I got healthy oak notes right up front, but there was also a soft sweetness to it as well. I got notes of caramel and dark chocolate, reminding me a bit of a turtle bar. It even had some rich walnut notes to it.  It smelled decadent and delicious, very much like something you'd get from a good chocolatier, even if the nose wasn't all that pungent. 

As to the flavor, right up front I got a sweet but smooth caramel note, like that good, soft caramel used in Godiva chocolates--sweet, rich, smooth and creamy. It also had an oak note tagging along, but, given the prominent oak note on the nose, it was surprisingly nowhere near as oak-forward on the palate. Rather, it seemed to add a sort of a light roastiness, kind of like a coffee note but without the bitterness. Perhaps like a coffee ice cream?

The wood influence was certainly there, but it was almost a sweet wood note, if that makes sense. Kind of like almond or pecan or even hazelnut, where it has that soft sweetness to it, along with the nutty, earthy note and even a touch of bitterness.  But the caramel was always the backbone to everything, always bringing it back to the traditional bourbon notes.

It wasn't until the finish that the cinnamon spice finally kicked in. This was the one thing I felt was missing, but on the finish it came through along with an amaretto liqueur note, to add just a bit of that tanginess hitting the sides of my tongue and lingering in the back of my throat. There was also a healthy amount of vanilla that seemed to linger, which really didn't show up anywhere other than on the finish.

I'm so happy I got to try this bottle. It didn't necessarily blow me away like I had hoped it would, but it is certainly still a fantastic bottle.  And it does the trick as an older, punchier Eagle Rare. I have no regrets over finally finishing off those last few pours.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Heaven's Door Warehouse Liquors Select Cask Strength Single Barrel Straight Bourbon

- $75
- 123.8 Proof
- Barrel #49
- Indiana

Who here loves free whiskey???  I sure do!!! This was a bottle that was given to me after it was brought over to my house by a friend for a small whiskey gathering/tasting. Of course we opened it, drank it, and enjoyed it, and when he left the bottle remained behind. So, hooray for free whiskey!

What's interesting about this, though (at least interesting to me), is that this is MGP bourbon bottled by Heaven's Door.  I don't know what of its own juice, if any, Heaven's Door is bottling. But, I've seen a lot of their private selection single barrels on shelves lately, and nearly all of them have been sourced whiskey from Tennessee. In fact, while I'm sure there are others, this is the only one I've come across that was sourced from Indiana, and I do love me some MGP whiskey!

On the nose I immediately got great candy bar-esque notes, with cinnamon, caramel and milk chocolate taking center stage. There was also a candied walnut note as well as a citrus orange note behind everything. I even got a popcorn note off of it at times. I have no clue what candy bar that all could possibly remind me of, but it certainly came across as rich, sweet and delicious.

As to flavor, this is unquestionably MGP goodness.  I have no idea on the age, but it's certainly not young MGP.  My guess would be 6-7 years. Right up front it's loaded with rich dark caramel and a great cinnamon spice. It's warm and sweet and spicy right away on the tongue.  

It did have a bit of a twist to it, though, as it had this almond extract note that added a layer or richness as well as a bit of bite or tanginess or, I don't know, something to make it a bit more interesting. There was also a bit of an orange bitter to help balance out all the sweetness, and which seemed to work perfectly with everything else going on. It also had this nutty, walnut note that likewise helped keep the sweet notes at bay a bit. 

On the finish, I got a light coffee note, like a sweetened coffee. In fact, it reminded me of an amaretto cream coffee, and once I pinpointed that note, it was all I could notice and I really enjoyed it, so much so that I would dive back into my glass just to experience that finish again. 

I have no clue how good the Tennessee-sourced store picks are from Heaven's Door, but I certainly wouldn't hesitate to grab any MGP-sourced picks if I were to run into them again.  And, it's worth saying, once again Warehouse Liquors did an amazing job with this pick.  It was not only really good, but also interesting and different in a good way!

Grade: A-

Monday, March 20, 2023

Jack Daniel's Coy Hill High Proof Single Barrel Special Release Tennessee Whiskey

- $75
- 138.1 Proof
- Tennessee

While Jack Daniel's doesn't have anywhere near the hype or excitement over releases as some of the big Kentucky distilleries do, they've managed to put together a few consecutive limited releases that, even if they haven't garnered the hype, have at least garnered significant praise and positive reviews.

The Coy Hill 2021 release, however, seemed to garner a significant portion of hype as well. That was due in large part to the fact that some of the barrels they bottled were being bottled as "hazmat" bottles, as the kids say on social media. In other words, there were bottles of Coy Hill that exceeded 140 proof!  And thus the hype-train took off. I was able to get a Coy Hill, though not a hazmat bottling, which was alright with me. What am I going to do with all that proof anyway? That said, 138.1 proof was hardly anything to sneeze at, and I doubt anyone is going to miss that extra 1.9 proof.

On the nose this smelled distinctly Jack.  I got cinnamon raisin bread right up front. A touch of spice, a sweet bready note as well as a dark, rich fruit note. There was also a sweet, light chocolate note on the nose that was delicious. It also had a bit of a crackery note, as well as a nutty aroma, kind of like cashews.

The palate was all sweet and, naturally, heat.  I definitely got a sweet raisin bread note. It certainly had that sweet, doughy pastry note to it. While the cinnamon came through, it wasn't spicy by any means, but more like the cinnamon part of a cinnamon roll.  And, of course, those rich, dark raisin notes were immediately noticeable as well. 

There was a sort of buttery note to this as well, and that, along with the sweet notes gave it sort of a butterscotch flavor. There was also just a touch of bitterness, and that seemed to translate into a sweet coffee note, kind of like tiramisu or coffee with a healthy amount of Irish sweet cream.

This was a heater for sure, and that was very noticeable on the finish. That heat was certainly there up front, but on the finish the alcohol vapors seemed to just consume every inch of space in my mouth and throat. That heat, though, still paired with the sweet, and it was those tiramisu and butterscotch flavors that seemed to linger, making this, in my mind, a sweeter whiskey than most, despite the high proof.

I only got to try the one single barrel, but others I know who had different barrels were likewise impressed. This was yet another success in the Jack Daniel's relatively new line of limited releases.

Grade: A-