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+