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+