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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Old Overholt Cask Strength 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey

VITALS:

- $100
- 121 Proof
- 10 Years
- Kentucky

This was one of those whiskeys that was nowhere on my radar when it came out. I'm usually on top of rye releases, especially those that are cask strength and age-stated. But, I had no clue that Beam was putting out a cask strength Old Overholt, not to mention one with an age statement in the double digits. 

So, I didn't even know I wanted one until I went over to a buddy's house and he had a bottle sitting on his kitchen table. It was one of those moments where I barely had taken off my jacket before I was popping the cork on that bottle to give it a try. Luckily for me, his wasn't the last one at the store, and I was able to get my hands on a bottle of my own. 

The nose was woody, but not overly oaky. It had a mix of oak, pine and sawdust. It also had a spicy but sweet cinnamon note to it. What stood out, however, was the rich and distinct notes of an old fashioned. I got a rich, dark cherry, like an Amarena cherry, along with a burnt orange note. Needless to say, it smelled delicious!

Luckily, it tasted just as good! Oddly, though, I wasn't overly impressed at first. The first couple pours I had of this rye I thought it was a good, solid rye, but it didn't necessarily wow me. But, pretty much every pour after that second one was fantastic!!

It definitely had some of those woody or oaky notes, and there was a bit of a pine resin note that you tend to get from aged ryes. Underscoring that, however, as a healthy amount of rich and sweet vanilla. It also had a peppery spice both right up front and on the finish that seemed to work well with the vanilla and pine notes. It really had the best of those traditional rye notes that I love.

On top of that, however, were rich, sweet and spicy cinnamon notes, giving a great mix of cinnamon roll and atomic fireball. It was sweet and spicy and rich, all at once.  And behind that was a distinct cooked peach note that I absolutely loved. At times this reminded me of a peach pie, with the cooked, spiced peaches, a bit of a pastry note, and cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled on top. I couldn't get enough of this note, and it is certainly what kept me constantly reaching for this bottle on my shelf.

The finish had that same sweet and spicy profile, with notes of cinnamon and black pepper mixed with vanilla, pine and that great cooked peach note. But here that cooked peach note really lingered, along with the vanilla note, leaving an incredible taste in my mouth long after each sip.

I feel like I've been sleeping on the Old Overholt line, and this release really gave me reason to never do that again. This was an outstanding rye, and I hope there are future releases.

Grade: A

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Very Olde St. Nick Ancient Cask 8 Year Canadian Rye Whiskey

VITALS:
- $150
- 86.8 Proof
- 8 years
- Lot #16
- Canada

This is one of my first forays into Preservation Distillery's offerings. I had seen them floating around social media for quite a while, new revivals of old brands. They come with higher age statements, great looking packaging that reminds one of other very sought after whiskeys, and, of course a great story/label that uses words like "ancient cask" and "legendary rye."

But, what's hidden on the back is something I should have looked at before I made this purchase -- "Product of Canada."  This is a low proof, 8 year Canadian whiskey.  That doesn't exactly command the premium price that I paid back in 2020.  I made the mistake of getting excited over seeing these bottles hit Illinois shelves for the first time and not bothering to do my research. But, despite the wind being taken out of my sails, I figured at that point I had already bought it, I might as well drink it!

The nose was a healthy dose of cinnamon and sawdust. It had that light, woody smell that you get when working with a table saw.  It also had sweet bready notes that reminded me of Hawaiian rolls and even at times glazed donuts.  The long and short of it is it was very sweet with a bit of cinnamon.

On the palate it was also very sweet, but it was more of a brown sugar sweetness that dominated, and it told me fairly quickly that this was indeed a Canadian whiskey.  There was also a layer of vanilla underneath the brown sugar sweetness that gave it a bit of a dessert quality. Unfortunately, for me, it just leaned too sweet and I had a hard time getting past it.

I did get some other, more interesting notes, including the cinnamon that I was getting of the nose. That mostly came through on the back-end, and it was unfortunately fairly fleeting. I also got a bit of a cayenne note that added just a touch of spice.  That too was fleeting.

On the finish I was left with those sweet, bready notes coupled with the ever-present brown sugar. The finish was short-lived, though, disappearing on me almost immediately.

This bottle just didn't offer much more for me than standard fare Canadian whiskey. And every time I drank it and thought about the price, I just got angry. There is a reason these bottles just sit on shelves now. This was one-dimensional, overly sweet and way overpriced.

Grade: D

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Ancient Ancient Age 8 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:

- $60
- 86 Proof
- 8 Years
- Japan Release
- Kentucky

I was lucky enough to stumble into this bottle.  A good friend of mine had made a trip to Kentucky and found one of these at Neat Bourbon Bar and Bottle Shop. Of course, I was a bit jealous at his find. But, luckily for me, he ended up heading back to Louisville only a few weeks later, and there was still one of these sitting on the shelf that he was kind enough to buy and mule back from Kentucky for me. 

This is apparently (I say apparently because I truly didn't know such a product existed until he brought it back) a Japan release only, not available here in the United States.  I'm sure at retail it's much cheaper than what I paid, but I was more than willing to pay the premium for something I couldn't get here, particularly where it came with the 8 year age statement. 

The nose was soft, but still had those traditional notes of cinnamon, vanilla and caramel. There was a light peppery note to it as well.  However, on the last few pours the vanilla note really seemed to take hold, providing this great, almost cake-like note that I really enjoyed.

Of course, with the lower proof, it came across as thin and a bit watery. That was to be expected. As were the notes of caramel and vanilla that I got right up front. What wasn't expected, though, was the lack of sweetness. I didn't get those sweet vanilla and caramel notes that I usually get from Buffalo Trace's mashbill #2.  The flavors were there, but not the expected sweetness.

Rather, it had almost a coffee liqueur note to it, with a bit of bitterness to accompany the vanilla and caramel.  There was also a bit of a dark chocolate note, providing that same type of bitterness while at the same time complementing the vanilla and caramel notes.

The finish, as thin and short-lived as it was, was actually quite tasty.  Here some of the sweetness came through, as the chocolate note seemed a bit more like a milk chocolate, losing some of the bitterness. There was also a citrus not that came through, and it reminded me of those chocolate oranges I used to enjoy as a kid. 

In the end, I kind of knew what I was getting into. It's Ancient Age, but with a bit more age on it. It's good, but it's low proof, and it drinks like it is. That said, this was still not only a fun and tasty bottle to try, it was a fun one to share with friends who likewise had never come across such a bottle.

Grade: B-

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Cedar Ridge Distillery No. 9 Reserve Iowa Whiskey

VITALS:
- $80
- 99 Proof
- 4 years
- Iowa

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  I love free whiskey!!!  This particular bottle was a Christmas gift from my sister.  When it comes to gift getting, I don't often get bottles of whiskey because people are usually concerned about whether or not I've had something before. While I certainly wish that train of thought went away, as I love getting bottles as gifts, regardless of whether or not I've had them before, in this instance my sister was very confident that wouldn't be the case. 

This is a collaboration that Cedar Ridge Distillery in Ioway did with Slipknot. It indicates that it's a blend of corn and rye, but it's not labeled as either one, but rather just "Iowa whiskey."  So I have no clue as to the mashbill. But, in any event, I was excited to try Slipknot's whiskey, and just to have something new!!

On the nose I did get a lot of rye notes. It was a good blend of cinnamon and pine resin, along with a rich nutty note, like walnut. There was also a slight licorice or anise note on the nose, which seemed to get stronger over time. I also got a distinct note of oatmeal, like cinnamon raisin oatmeal.

On the flavor, the cinnamon was front and center. It had that big red cinnamon note to it, along with the more natural cinnamon, giving it a place somewhere between cinnamon rolls and red hots.  I definitely got the pine resin notes as well, giving it a bit of mustiness. Also, despite its young age, I got a bit of oak right up front, along with a tannic bitterness.

As I had more pours, it started leaning more towards that oatmeal note I got on the nose.  I definitely got black licorice, very much like the candy I so hated growing up (and am still not much a fan of). But there was also raisin, a cereal note not unlike oatmeal, and loads of brown sugar. I think this combo did betray this whiskey's youth a bit, but I still found it enjoyable. 

On the finish a black pepper spice came through. Normally I would welcome that, but it just didn't seem to really have a place among the healthy amounts of cinnamon and brown sugar that were left lingering. The finish was just a bit all over the place.  

All in all, this was good, just with some rough edges that I needed to get past. I don't know if I would buy it again, but I was glad to have tried it, and did enjoy each glass. 

Grade: C+

Monday, March 18, 2024

George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 2018

VITALS:
- $110
- 124.9 Proof
- NAS (15 yrs., 4 mos.)
- Kentucky

Okay, let me just get this out of the way . . . this is really fucking good!! No surprise, right?!? For me, this has been the most consistent of all the BTAC releases in that I can't recall there ever being a "down year" for George T. Stagg.  In fact, I was on the fence about even writing this review. After all, by this point, there are hundreds of reviews of the 2018 release, and guess what? Every one of them tells you this is really fucking good!

But, I held onto this bottle for so long, saving the last few pours for who knows what. I just didn't want it to be gone and off my shelf. I liked having that last bit of Stagg sitting there on my shelf, just in case someone came over to my house who had never had it, or just really wanted to try this particular year. After six years, though, it was time, and on a random night drinking with friends, we finally polished off the last few pours.

The nose on this was really fun.  Of course I got some of the traditional notes of caramel and cinnamon, and even some dark cherry and amaretto. It certainly came across as rich and sweet but with a bit of depth. What I loved, however, was that there was a cake-like note on the nose, and eventually I was able to place it as waffle batter. I thoroughly enjoyed this note, particularly as it mixed with the caramel and cherry notes.

From the first sip I couldn't help but notice just how rich and flavorful a bourbon this was. Even at a lower proof than previous years, this had so much depth and flavor and richness and complexity, and all of it seemed to be right in my wheelhouse.

It was full of toffee and cinnamon notes, of course. There was also the constant undercurrent of vanilla bean throughout. And what brought me great joy and pleasure was that I also got the waffle batter that I loved on the nose!!  It added this cookie-like or cake-like flavor and sweetness that, again, just seemed to complement everything else going on here.

The great viscosity on this bourbon provided for a long and lasting finish, and that's where the darker, richer notes really came through. It as dark but sweet cherry along with a brown butter note. It almost had a praline flavor to it that was incredible. As the finish lingered, notes of dark chocolate and cinnamon really stuck in the back of my throat, kind of like a spicy Skor bar. 

Again, no surprise here.  I absolutely loved this. It's always been top tier for me in my ranking of whiskeys, not to mention it's always held a particularly special spot in my heart. I miss it already!

Grade: A+

Thursday, March 7, 2024

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

VITALS:

- $90
- 116.6 Proof
- 11 yrs, 2 mos
- Barrel No. 16-3 M
- Kentucky

Having been through all ten Four Roses recipes at this point, I'm not just picking up these store picks wherever and whenever I see them. The problems with that, though are (1) the price has really jumped -- $90 is a bit of a tough pill to swallow anymore; and (2) despite the increase in price, they're just not that easy to come across. 

But, I've still picked them up here and there, because, in my opinion, it's still some of the best bourbon hitting the shelves. Apparently, though, I've done so without any regard to which recipes I was getting. After my most recent purchase, I realized I was sitting on three different bottles of OESF!  It was at that point that I knew I had to open and drink at least one of them!

The nose came across as rich and spicy and sweet. I got a dark cherry right up front, followed by notes of rich toffee and dark chocolate. There was also a woodiness to it, but it wasn't an oak note. It was lighter, like more of a balsam wood note. In addition to the toffee, there was an added rich but dark sweetness like molasses.

Much like the nose, the flavor had a lot going on, but it certainly leaned towards those dark, rich and sweet notes. Right up front I got notes of anise or black licorice. Not enough to turn me off, but it was noticeable right away.  It also had a peppery spice that hit the tip of my tongue immediately with each sip.

The rich sweetness came through in the form of toffee and brown sugar. There was also the dark chocolate that I was getting from the nose. What kept this from being to 'heavy" was a tangy Amarena cherry note that seemed to come through right in the middle and seemed to perfectly complement everything else going on. 

The finish had many of the same notes--the toffee, the dark chocolate and even a bit of the cherry note. But, it also had a sort of roasty coffee note that seemingly came out of nowhere but was absolutely great! The peppery spice seemed to transform into more of a cinnamon spice that lingered as well.

I know I have two more OESF bottles waiting to be opened, and given how much I loved this one, I'm thinking it won't be long before that happens. This bottle was so rich and full of flavor and absolutely delicious, it even made me forget about the price increase on these bottles!

Grade: A

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Eagle Rare Niche Single Barrel Select "Waverly Boys" Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $40
- 90 Proof
- 10 Years
- Kentucky

I've propped up some Niche single barrel offerings in the past, and for good reason. In addition to making some of the best food in my area, Vinnie, the owner of Niche, has consistently made some great single barrel picks.  From standard Old Forester and Elijah Craig picks to Weller Full Proof picks, it seems his and my palates align, because I've enjoyed them all!

So, it was, of course, a no brainer to grab this Eagle Rare when it hit Niche's doorstep.  I'm not completely certain as to the "Waverly Boys" reference. Perhaps it's a reference to Waverly, Illinois, a town in central/southern Illinois that I'm sure I've only heard of from spending time in Springfield.  Name aside, I was just glad to get my hands on this bottle.

The nose was fairly traditional. It led with caramel and cinnamon, along with a rich vanilla note. It, in a way, reminded me of ice cream. There was also a distinct woody note to it, but not the usual oak note. It was more like a cedar note, which was a bit odd but not necessarily offensive. 

That cedar note did not carry through to the flavor, however. I got the cinnamon from the nose, and the caramel notes seemed to evolve into a richer, deeper toffee note. It was definitely sweet up front, but as that sweetness receded, it gave way to a bit of a twist, kind of like an amaretto or an anise note. Luckily the anise was not strong, as that can turn me off a bit. Here, it was just complementary.

The toffee note seemed to dominate a bit, but at times I did get notes of dark chocolate and even a sort of peanut note. Those notes were a bit fleeting, however. But, in later pours it seemed to develop a rich, Amarena cherry note that I absolutely loved, and wished it had shown up sooner!

That cherry note really carried through to the finish. Despite the lower proof, this had a great, lasting finish with the rich cherry note, but the dark chocolate seemed to return as well, and both flavors really complemented the long toffee note that lingered. 

The market seems a bit saturated with single barrel picks these days, but Niche has once again proven that their picks always appeal to my tastes, and I'm just going to keep going back to that well as long as I can.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Ardbeg Fermutation Special Committee Edition 13 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

VITALS:
- $200
- 98.8 Proof
- 13 Years
- Islay

Ardbeg's committee releases are incredibly consistently good, so much so that I rarely think twice about buying one when I get the chance. This, however, was one of the first that I was eager to get my hands on when I first heard of its release. As it is, Ardbeg puts out some fairly funky stuff, and certainly lands on the higher end of peated Scotches. 

However, this release promised to be one of its funkiest ever.  Ardbeg touted it as their longest fermentation ever, hence the name, "Fermutation." Based on their press releases, this particular bottling was fermented for over three weeks (much more than the few days that are typical) before being distilled. So, whether or not it would be better than other Ardbegs was a complete crap shoot.  But, I was confident that it was certainly going to be different than other Ardbeg releases.

The nose immediately exposed the funkiness of this Scotch. It smelled like a smokey hayride on a damp fall day.  That sounds incredibly pretentious and a bit dramatic, but I did get notes of hay mixed with the peat, and there was a damp, musty wood note to it as well. However, there were also great notes of unsweetened vanilla and even stewed pears. Behind the hayride was a kind of a brandy note that really complemented those smoky notes. 

The flavor mostly followed suit. I got those hay notes, but they were what I described as "pillowy," like a soft and delicious saison beer. Of course, it being Ardbeg, the peat smoke was front and center, but there was a soft yeast note or bready note to it as well. What really stood out, however, was a bright lemongrass note that really kept everything from getting too "heavy."

Other sweeter notes came through as well, including a nice and bright honey note as well as a graham cracker note. There was something nutty up front as well, but I couldn't quite put my thumb on it. It was earthy and somewhat sweet.  And of course that peat smoke carried throughout.

The finish, though, was where I really fell in love with this bottle. All of that funk remained, with lemongrass and hay notes leading the way. But the honey notes kept it sweet.  It was very viscous, and I was finally able to place my thumb on the nutty note, which was kind of like a walnut oil flavor. The peat really hit harder on the finish as well, and it combined with a distinct cooling, almost minty sensation on the finish that was not only completely unexpected but was pretty awesome. 

This was not your typical Ardbeg, that's for sure. While it had the peat, it didn't have those typical brighter, lighter notes that I get behind the peat in other Ardbeg offerings. But, this was a lot of fun, certainly scratched that itch when I was in the mood for something funky, and it had one of the most memorable finishes I can recall.  

Grade: A

Friday, February 16, 2024

Kilkerran Heavily Peated Batch No. 4 Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

VITALS:
- $100
- 117.2 Proof
- NAS
- Batch No. 4
- Campbeltown

I certainly have an affinity for just about anything coming out of Campbeltown (and based on their prices lately, I'm apparently not alone in this). A couple years ago one of the stores by me got in a bunch of bottles from the Kilkerran line, and I decided at that time to grab the Heavily Peated. 

It was something I had never tried, and it was a bit different from the usual Campbeltown stuff I've enjoyed, which tends to be a bit on the lighter side of peated.  I figured perhaps it might find some great middle ground between a Campbeltown and an Islay, or at worst a decent version of one or the other.

The nose was certainly smoky, but the peat did not dominant. Rather, it was more like a mezcal, providing that smokey flavor but without all the phenols. It even had a bit of an agave sweetness and a bright honeydew note to it.  The only thing that kept it from smelling just like a mezcal was the sweet butter and brown sugar notes that also came through. That said, this combination apparently worked, because I couldn't get my nose out of the glass.

This is a bottle that I sat on for a while, and as a result I almost had two different experiences with it. When I first opened it, it had those bright, citrus notes that I was getting off the nose. It absolutely had some honeydew or cantaloupe notes to it, which actually paired pretty well with the sweet smoky note.  But, it wasn't what I was expecting to get out of a heavily peated Campbeltown.  

It did have some darker cherry notes as well, which, along with the smoke, gave it a sort of barbecue sauce note.  But it was a citrusy or even a mango barbecue sauce. This was a bit odd and a bit out of place with the bright melon notes.

However, months, even years down the road, as I got toward the bottom of this bottle, the flavor really seemed to shift on me. It got away from those fruity notes almost entirely. By the end, I got none of those bright melon notes, but rather rich brown butter notes, with honey and brown sugar. There was a sweet graham cracker note, and all of this was tempered by the ever-present smoky notes, and even a little bit of black pepper spice.

Had I graded this bottle on the last half only, I would have given this an A, maybe even an A+.  It was that good.  I just wasn't sure what to make of it at first. It wasn't bad by any stretch. In fact it was quite good.  But, it was just . . . unexpected, I guess.  Either way, I will certainly be grabbing future releases.

Grade: B+ 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Stagg Jr. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Batch No. 14

VITALS:
- $60
- 130.2 Proof
- NAS
- Batch No. 14
- Kentucky

Stagg Jr. (and now just Stagg) seems to take up a lot of shelf space in my collection. It's just one of those bottles that remains reasonably priced, particularly given the proof, quality and consistency. And it's one of those bottles that is semi-allocated and I've had the fortune of being able to get my hands on them as they've come out, for the most part.

Among recent batches, though, there hasn't seemed to be a whole lot of variation. I've tried them side-by-side, and I've found it difficult to differentiate between the batches. In fact, the last one I finished I didn't even bother to write up because it just felt like I could simply refer to the last review I wrote. But, that felt lazy, so with this one I'm making it a point to write up my review, even if for my own sense of completeness.

The nose was fairly traditional to good, well-made bourbon, with healthy amounts of brown sugar and cinnamon. There was a light oak note that indicated a bit of age on the whiskey, and an undertone of vanilla as well. It also had a sweet, almost candy-like cherry note to it that smelled great.

As to flavor, right up front it had a tanginess to it that reminded me of amaretto liqueur.  That was accompanied by big hits of brown sugar and caramel, giving it a rich sweetness. If it weren't for the heat coming from the pour, I'd have classified it as a "dessert whiskey."

Those dessert notes seemed to really carry through, as I then got a strong cherry note, as well as notes of chocolate and cherry, making for a rich and sweet combination that was met with a counter-balancing oak note that seemed to temper that rich sweetness. 

The finish provided an additional cinnamon spice that I think was missing before. The oak and cherry notes came forward more on the finish as well, and that seemed to really round out the flavor into something very well-balanced and delicious.

I wish what I got from the finish I got throughout, but it was still delicious front to back. It just seemed to be a bit more balanced on the finish. But, I guess that's a good thing, considering that's what kept me going back for my next sip.

Grade: B+

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Longrow Red Cabernet Franc Matured 11 Year Peated Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch

VITALS:
- $150
- 111.8 Proof
- 11 years
- Campbeltown

The Longrow Red series has long been my favorite "series" or annual release, probably in all of whiskey/whisky. In fact, it was the Pinot Noir Cask that I had back in 2017 that turned me on to wine finished, peated scotches, and my insatiable love for sweet and peat!! Ever since then I've made it a point to get my hands on and try anything fruity and peaty that I can find.

While most of those are matured in either sherry or port (port tends to be my favorite), this one was matured in Cabernet Franc barrels. I'm certainly no wine guy, so I have no opinion on or experience with cabernet franc. But, given that I absolutely loved the Malbec Longrow Red, and I know that I don't particularly like Malbecs, I figured I couldn't go wrong with this one either. 

Right up front on the nose I got those rich fruit notes I've come to expect from these bottlings. It was full of bright raspberry and black currant. There was a light smokiness to it as well, along with some black pepper spice on the back end. It had a bit of a sweet barbecue note and I could not wait to dive into it.

The flavor was full of rich, fruity notes, but not quite as bright as on the nose. It leaned more dark fruits like blackberry and plum. It was sweetened, however, by a great honey note. That was all underscored by a malty backbone that came across like a honey wheat bread, but a good one, like the kind you'd buy from a bakery.

The peat smoke was there but not pervasive. Like most Campbeltown Scotches, it doesn't slap you in the face the way an Islay might. But it was still there to provide that great balance and "meatiness" to accompany the sweet and fruity notes. There was also a white peppercorn type spice, particularly on the back end. 

The finish reminded me a lot of sangria. It had the rich wine flavors, with dark fruit notes and a bit of tannins to counter the sweetness, which came from a bright orange note that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The finish wasn't particularly long, but the flavors were absolutely delicious!

Unsurprisingly, I loved this bottle, and I can't wait to work my way through the rest of the lineup sitting on my shelf.

Grade: A

Monday, January 22, 2024

Old Scout Binny's Private Selection Straight Rye Whiskey

VITALS:
- $50
- 114 Proof
- 5 Years
- Barrel No. 31905
- Indiana

This is one of those whiskeys where by now I pretty much know what I'm going to get. After all, this is a single barrel, cask strength bottling of MGP rye. This has stuff has been bottled under so many different labels, of course at varying ages and proofs, but almost always the 95/5 mashbill.

This is a single barrel, though, so it should have its own unique qualities. And, it was good enough to be selected by the tasters at Binny's (though if you look at number of private barrels sitting on the shelves at Binny's lately, it doesn't exactly scream discriminating).  So, what's another cask strength, single barrel MGP rye?? At least I know going in I'm going to to enjoy it!

And yet, when I first popped the cork, poured my glass and took a big whiff, I wasn't much of a fan of the nose. I got notes of dark chocolate and cherry cola. Good so far. But, what followed that were notes of bitter oak, and a healthy amount of pine-scented household cleaner. At first I thought it was just the typical pine note and I was blowing it out of proportion, but I definitely got that Pine-Sol note off of every single pour. 

Luckily, though, that note did not carry over to the flavor. It made for a bit of a weird experience getting something so strong on the nose but not in the flavor, but that was a good thing. Rather, I got a great, strong cinnamon spice. There was a bit of a bitter note, but it came across as more of a coffee note. And this all seemed to mix with a cherry and dark chocolate note that just really worked.

There was a light pine resin note, but nothing even close to approaching that cleaner note. Rather, it was a welcome note of pine, one that came across as natural and complementary to everything else going on. And all in all, this was a rich, sweet and spicy pour. In fact, the last few pours of the bottle were even sweeter and incredibly enjoyable.

This rye also had a great oily texture, which made for an incredibly long finish full of that same, bold cinnamon spice I got up front as well as the rich dark chocolate notes. 

If I could have gotten past the nose, this would have been one of the best MGP ryes I could recall. But that nose was really off-putting, despite how good the whiskey actually tasted.

Grade: B

Monday, January 1, 2024

Bondstone Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $42
- 125 Proof
- 4 years
- Kentucky

Whenever I go out of state and find myself in a liquor store (always seems to happen), I make it a point to seek out whiskeys that I can't get or haven't seen on shelves back home. Of course that usually involves a local craft distillery or perhaps a store pick if they have any. But sometimes I come across something that I just simply have never seen before.

That was the case with this Bondstone. They had a handful of offerings, and not necessarily the usual line you might see, which included a high rye bourbon and a double oaked bourbon. I, of course, gravitated to the cask strength version.  And with a price tag of $42, finding a cask strength, age-stated Kentucky straight bourbon for that price that I've never seen before made for an easy decision. 

The nose immediately told me that this was going to carry many of those traditional bourbon flavors, and it also told me I was going to enjoy that first sip! I immediately got notes of caramel and cinnamon, with a mild vanilla undertone. There was even a bit of an anise note as well as hints of cloves to spice it up just a bit and add another layer. 

The flavor very much matched up with what the nose was telling me. Right up front I got a great medley of cinnamon and vanilla, with a light oak note making this seem like it had more age than it did. There was a sweetness to it, but it was tempered, kind of like a burnt sugar note.

Behind those traditional notes, however, I got some rich, fruity notes, including a great candied orange note that I couldn't get enough of. The spiciness from the high rye content of this bourbon also added to a bit of a spiced cherry note, particularly on the finish.  That note seemed to linger forever in the back of my throat and had me really wanting that next sip right away.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this bottle.  I knew nothing about it (and, quite frankly, still know nothing about it), but I know now that it's very good whiskey at a very good price!  I've since learned (if YouTube is to be believed) that this was distilled by Wilderness Trail.  It certainly wouldn't surprise me, as I've found their whiskey to be very good at a young age.  In any event, I may have to try some others in this line, including the Double Oaked.

Grade: B+