Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Old Forester 1924 10-Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $140
- 100 Proof
- 10 Years
- Kentucky

I was very excited to hear about the new release coming from Old Forester. Not only was this new release going to carry an age statement, and a decent one at that at 10 years, but it was also going to feature a new mashbill from a distillery that I love. Add in that it's 100 proof, and it had pretty much everything I'd look for in a new release . . .

Except for the price.  This bottle carries a fairly steep price tag of $140, which in my mine is significantly more than it should be. I realize that limited releases and age stated bottles are carrying a premium these days, and I can certainly find comps in the same price range. But, at the same time, there are also comps that are significantly less (Weller 12 year and Henry McKenna, for example).  So this price tag was a hard pill to swallow, particularly since it features a new mashbill and carries with it a certain level of the unknown. 

The nose came off immediately as sweet. I got sweet caramel, like caramel apple caramel, along with a red hots type of cinnamon note.  There was an undercurrent of vanilla bean as well as a slight woody note, though not necessarily oak. It was lighter, perhaps more like a cedar, or even just a sawdust note.

The flavor follows the nose, at least in its sweetness.  This is definitely on the sweet side of the sweet vs. spicy spectrum. The caramel came across as less sugary, however, and more like that soft, buttery caramel that I love. 

It also came across at a bit fruiter than expected. There was something bright and berry-like to it, kind of like a raspberry, but yet not quite. Perhaps a mix of raspberry and currant. That was all complemented by a significant brown sugar note that seemed to develop more and more with each pour. There was also that undercurrent of vanilla bean that I got on the nose, which really worked well with the brown sugar and berry notes. 

That brown sugar that seemed to keep developing over time also seemed to dominate the finish. The fruity notes were nowhere to be found, and what little spice was here was gone almost as quickly as it came. I was instead left with a sweet, sugary finish that, quite frankly, needed something more.

Overall, this is a good bourbon, but I don't believe it's worth the price tag. I realize that some of the other options mentioned above are harder to find these days, but this isn't exactly a readily available bottle either. So, it'd probably be worth it just to keep hunting out those other, lower priced "comps."

Grade: B 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 17 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $300
- 118.2 Proof
- 17 Years
- Kentucky

I'm not really sure where to start with this post. This is a "big" bottle. This is one of those bottles that's big in proof, big in age, pretty much guaranteed to be big in flavor, and certainly big in price. In fact, I was offered a chance to buy this bottle, and that price tag really had me on the fence, despite how much I knew I wanted this bottle. In the end, my heart overruled my wallet.

But, I have no regrets.  This is a fun bottle.  It was fun to drink, and, more importantly, it was fun to share. This was one of those bottles that people immediately gravitated to at tastings, and everyone wanted to try. I've got some pretty good memories associated with this bottle and enjoying some really good times with good friends, even down to the last two pours which I saved to make sure I shared with good company.

The nose seemed to lead with an oaky note, that had me worried at first that the age had gotten the best of this bourbon. But, that was quickly followed by a delicious smelling milk chocolate note as well as some cinnamon. It combined to create this sort of chocolate hazelnut note, not unlike Nutella. Rich caramel and vanilla seemed to be floating around in the background, and just from the nose you could tell this was going to be something delicious.

My first impression from my first sip was that this was kind of like a barrel strength Elijah Craig 18, which happens to be one of my favorite pours. So, this was right up my alley from the start. Similar to the nose, the oak notes hit right up front. But they quickly gave way to all the other flavors happening within this bottle.

I got a distinct dark cherry note, like Amarena cherries, along with a rich, dark caramel note. Together it was rich, sweet and decadent.  The cinnamon note was there as well, to give it just a bit of spice and, along with the oak notes, keep it from ever getting too sweet.

It had heat to it, but the flavor was so good I didn't seem to be bothered by it one bit. That rich caramel seemed to coat my mouth, only to give way to a delicious and equally rich vanilla bean note. I did get a chocolate note as well, but it wasn't the milk chocolate from the nose, but more of a dark chocolate flavor but without the dark chocolate bitterness. 

The great, viscous texture provided for a crazy long finish that was all toffee and dark cherry. It had me smacking my tongue to the roof of my mouth to the point that it drove my wife crazy. But I couldn't help but just sit there enjoying it. 

The price on this bottle is excessive, certainly. But this was an absolutely phenomenal bourbon, one I was not only happy I got to try, but one which I'm happy I got to share. 

Grade: A+

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ezra Brooks 99 Proof Cask Finished Series Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Port Wine Casks


- $25
- 99 Proof
- Kentucky

One of my favorite past times is being sent by my wife on a wine run and then spending more time than it should take while casually perusing the whiskey shelves looking for something new.  I love finding new brands or products on the shelves, especially when I had no knowledge of the release beforehand.

That was the case with this Ezra Brooks Port Finished Kentucky Straight Bourbon. I had no idea that Lux Row had plans of releasing a port finished bourbon. The label says that it's part of a "Cask Finished Series," so I can only hope that there will be others. But, what really got me excited about this release was the price tag!!  If I were to run for president, my platform would be "MBAA" - Make Bourbon Affordable Again! And this particular bottle could be my mascot! At $25, I didn't think twice about throwing it in my cart.

The nose had just a bit of the port influence, but it wasn't nearly as influential here as I had expected. There were notes of raisin and fig, and even the slightest hint of raspberry. But, those notes weren't strong, and I primarily got those more traditional notes of vanilla and caramel, and even a bit of cinnamon spice.

Similarly, I took my first sip expecting a much more fruity experience. But again, it was the bourbon notes that dominated, with toffee and vanilla taking center stage. The port notes followed soon thereafter, as that fig and raspberry came through in a way that complemented shoe traditional bourbon notes. So often they provide a sharp contrast, but here it all seemed to work together. 

On the finish all of these flavors seemed to blend together to create this figgy caramel note that was sweet, but not too sweet, rich and flavorful.  The finish didn't last as long as I would have wanted it to, and the on ething missing here was a bit of spice that would have really rounded things out.

What this finished bourbon does best is kind of what Angel's Envy does well, which is provide a very approachable, flavorful bourbon for a more casual bourbon consumer. Except this one is half the price!  For that reason alone it's worth picking up!

Grade: B

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Laphroaig Cairdeas White Port and Madeira Casks Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

- $100
- 104.6 Proof
- Islay

Laphroaig's annual Cairdeas release has certainly become something I look forward to each year, and even more so when I find out the release is going to be some sort of wine finish. In the past I've found such releases to be absolutely phenomenal!  Yet, this one wasn't really on my radar.  In fact, the first I had seen it was when I was out of town checking out a random liquor store, and there it was on the shelf, making me wonder how I had missed information on this release.

While the bottle didn't come home with me on that trip, I was sure to secure a bottle soon thereafter, and I was fairly quick to open this one.  I kind of knew what I was going to get from the Madeira cask, but I really wasn't sure what to expect from the white port cask. I only assumed it would have a different profile from other peated port matured Scotches I've had in the past.

The nose was not as prominent with the wine notes as I had expected.  I've gotten so used to getting an aroma full of dark fruits and smoked meats from similar bottlings, but that was not to be found here. The peat was certainly present, but the wine influence was a bit light. There was perhaps a hint of raspberry, but otherwise, it was primarily notes of campfire and bready notes.

Luckily, the flavor brought more to the table than the nose did. There I got that great combination of sweet and peat that I love. The flavor came across as more of a raspberry jam note, along with a nice blackberry note. While sweet, it also had that bite of bitterness to it to keep it from being too sweet. It did not come across as a port or Madeira "bomb" by any stretch, but the influence, even if a bit more subtle, was delicious.

Of course I got a great smokey note, which at first was like the campfire note I was getting on the nose. But as I made my way through this bottle, it developed more of that smoked barbecue note that I love in a good wine-finished Islay Scotch. It was like a nice plate of sweet and savory barbecue ribs. 

But, there was another note that weirdly enough seemed to go right along with everything else -- pancakes.  I'm not sure if I've ever gotten pancakes as a tasting note, I'd have to check, but it was certainly there in this bottle, lurking in the background, and particularly noticeable on the finish.

While I wouldn't put this as my favorite Cairdeas release, it was, not surprisingly, still absolutely delicious. This was a bottle that went much faster than I intended, which is always a good measure.

Grade: B+

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Bomberger's Declaration Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 2021

- $90
- 108 Proof
- Batch #21E1349
- Kentucky

I have always been a big fan of the two regular Michter's releases, Shenk's and Bomberger's.  These were always special releases that weren't overly difficult to find, somewhat reasonably priced, and always solid pours. In fact, this one was one that I just happened to see sitting on a shelf and I remember being initially caught off guard and then immediately taking one off the shelf.

I haven't picked any up recently though.  That's not due to availability but rather due to price. The price for both Shenk's and Bomberger's has doubled in the last four years, perhaps in an effort by Michter's to try to reach that ceiling of what the bourbon hunter is willing to pay for their limited releases. I've had them enough that I had no problem turning down a newer bottle at $150.  That said, I'm sure it's still solid bourbon, and I do wish it were more price-friendly, as I'd like to keep some on my shelf if I could.

The nose was rich and delicious.  Right away I got this great, spiced cherry note, with a bit of black pepper to accompany the sweetness of the cherry.  There was a light cinnamon note, as well as a distinct toffee and dark chocolate note, really hammering home that "rich" characteristic.

The flavor was actually a bit more interesting, and even a bit more punchy. Right away I got a sweet clove note, bringing together those notes of cinnamon, pepper and black cherry, but in a more in-your-face way. There was also a smooth caramel sweetness to it that seemed to ride along with the cherry note, which came through right after it first hit my tongue.

On the back end it came across a bit more dark fruit forward and a bit more nutty. The black cherry remained, but there was also a sort of fig or raisin note that came through. In a way it was like black currants but slightly less sweet. There was also a sort of almond extract note that I got, though not strong.

The finish was almost all cherry and almond, however. None of the spice that I got up front really lingered, and that would be the only thing I missed in this whiskey. A little bit of cinnamon and/or black pepper spice would have really knocked this one out of the park. But, that cherry and almond still had the desired effect of making me immediately want another sip. 

I really wish the price on these bottles hadn't jumped so much and so quickly. I do love these releases, and this 2021 release was no different.

Grade: A-