Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bourbon Influx – Spring 2012

Yup….I'm a little late posting the picks of the Spring 2012 barrel picks. Better late than never…..
These bottles rolled in early July and consisted of multiple picks from Four Rose and Buffalo Trace. In all the entire group purchased 13 barrels of bourbon….a rather silly amount of juice but this consisted of the group buy and those in our group that wanted to purchase their own barrel. For this posting, I'll focus on only those that I acquired myself as I didn't go in on any of the private purchases.

Back in June I posted a couple of blogs about the trip to KY here and here .

Old Weller Antique 7.4 years 107 proof (#8) - Loaded up with caramel, burnt brown sugar and cinnamon, this selection was quickly a top favorite. One member described this selection and "liquid candy" and I can't argue with that. This barrel and the following two were all distilled on the same day but the aging certainly took a different turn on each of these. The heat is non-existent and drink way too easy even at 107 proof. 

Old Weller Antique 7.4 year 107 proof (#9) – This one to me has an abundance of ripe fruit. The profile also exhibits spices, toasted nut and a creamy mouthfeel. It's a very intriguing and another one that is too easy to drink and very full of flavor. Another cracker pick.

Old Weller Antique 7.4 year 107 proof (#10) – I didn't get many bottles from this barrel which is my own fault and I'm sorry I didn't acquire more. This one has turned out to be another favorite. I think at first opening, the bourbon was somewhat tight but after getting a little air, it opened up very nicely exhibiting a wonderful array of flavors similar to #9 above but different in some aspects. The fruit isn't as dominant and is more in line with pear or apple, add in caramel, vanilla and buttercream. This bourbon is a bit drier than the previous two selections but that's not a negative in this case. One member commented that they thought it was very similar to Pappy 15. 

Four Roses (OESK) 11 year 124.5 proof – As I mentioned in my previous post about the Four Roses tasting, this barrel was extremely short and Jim Rutledge didn't think we would actually get any bottles from the barrel. Well, we ended up with 48. That was it. Unfortunately, this was the top pick for the group during the tasting. So, allocation went out by lottery. I managed two bottles. This one was described as a bourbon candy bar exhibiting a flavor profile of fruit, nut, caramel and vanilla. I would add in that the finish is long and lingering. Heat's totally in check….another drinkable bottle at barrel strength.

Four Rose (OBSF) 9.9 year 122.7 proof – This one was an interesting pick as I picked up a herbal/mint aroma on the nose with some moderate heat about mid palate. There a nice sweetness to this bourbon that's not overdone but a subtle mix of sweet, barrel char, stone fruit with a finish that's complex and deep. A very compelling bourbon and unlike the other two FR picks. Very tasty.

Four Rose (OESF) 9.9 year 122 proof – The "F" yeast is quickly becoming one of my favorite yeasts of the Four Roses mashbills. I find this to be another complex whiskey with a berry and chocolate profile. Long lingering wood notes and char (which gives the chocolate flavoring). This is a very satisfying bourbon and another great example from Four Roses. The fact that they have 10 mashbills really makes their bourbons so unique and appealing. 

I'm expecting two more barrels selections to show up and both from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers; a Willett 9 year barrel strength and an 8 year barrel strength. Hopefully not too much longer to wait.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Midleton Very Rare - Blind Tasting

I'll point out right up front that the Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey is expensive with the typical range around $125 to $150 for a 750ml bottle.

This offering comes from Irish Distillers, a Pernod Ricard company, who also distribute Jameson, Paddy and Powers and up until 2009 also distributed Wild Turkey Bourbon.

This was selection #6 in the Irish blind tasting and I included it for the simple reason that it's a premium blend and I wanted something top shelf in the mix.  I first came across Midleton back in early 2010 and vacillated purchasing the bottle due to the price.  I ended pulling the trigger and for the most part am glad I did.

This blended whiskey comes from 50 hand selected casks by the Master Distiller and contains whiskey that is as young as 12 years up to 25 years old.  This label first appeared in 1984 as a special annual release.  Midleton has won many awards at various spirits competitions and is well regarded in the industry as well as world whiskey enthusiasts.

At 40% ABV, this is not a powerhouse whiskey but is instead an elegant dram exhibiting flavors of aged oak, honeycomb, summer fruits and baking spice.  The finish is long and smooth coaxing the drinker to take yet another sip. To me, a very good example of a high end blend and one to be savored and shared among those that appreciate a unique and rare whiskey.

This selection received good marks among the tasting panel

95-100 Classic Whiskey 1
90-94 Excellent Whiskey 4
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey 1
80-84 Average Whiskey 2
75-79 Fair Whiskey 1
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey0

Comments from the panel consisted of:

"Caramel, malt, sherry, spice, and a hint of citrus. As good as it gets."

"I like the fruit flavors but the metallic aftertaste was a bit of a turnoff for me."

"Wow! A stunner. Seriously I could drink this all day and all year."

"DELICIOUS !!!!  I really enjoyed this whiskey and it comes closest in our sample to date to the type of flavour profile that I look for when reaching for an Irish Whiskey."

"To me, a one dimensional whiskey, not unplesant, but not something I'd crave."

The Midleton Very Rare has a limited distribution and may be difficult to find in some markets.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it Bourbon or is it Beer?

It's Both!

I've mentioned before my beer preferences lean toward the dark and malty side of the beer flavor spectrum and I typically dislike hopped selections. This weekend was no exception. I attended a local gathering of beer, bourbon, bbq and cigar enthusiasts that encompassed both Friday evening and all day Saturday. Practically everyone that attended brought some sort of beer selection. My contribution entailed those of the pumpkin variety; Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale and Southern Tier Pumking. All great selections. 

Over the last couple of years I've indulged in a number of beers finished in bourbon barrels. Few are great, some are good and a number of them are mediocre. A couple standouts have been Firestone Walker Anniversary releases, Schlafly Imperial Stout, Founders Backwoods Bastard, and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout to name just a few.

This weekend I enjoyed a couple new ones. Both from Williamsburg Alewerks; Bourbon Barrel Porter (BBP) and Cafe Royal (CR). Williamsburg Alewerks has a nice selection of beers from their seasonal Pumpkin Ale, to their standard offerings like Washington Porter, Tavern Ale and Coffeehouse Stout. The Bourbon Barrel Porter does not use the Washington Porter as the base but a different porter recipe. The Cafe Royale uses the Coffeehouse Stout as its base. 

Bourbon Barrel Porter is aged in barrels from Bowman Distillery for a period of two months according to the brewery website. I believe the aging period may be longer just based on unofficial information and my own observations while visiting the brewery recently. After the porter is dumped, the barrel is re-filled with the Coffeehouse Stout and aged for a period of at least 3 months.

The results are amazing. First, you have to start with a great beer base and both the porter and stout are fantastic. I recently visited another VA brewery, Corcoran, and they also had a barrel aged stout that was lacking in so many ways. 

First, the BBP was outstanding. The mouthfeel wasn't overly syrupy or too thick and the flavors were wonderfully balanced exhibiting a profile of roasted malts, caramel, bourbon (of course) and milk chocolate. Carbonation is moderate and the finish is lingering with a slight smoky sweetness. Some of these types of beers tend to be too heavy, too boozy or too sticky sweet.....BBP is none of these. A great barrel aged porter.

Second, the CR was also outstanding. The coffee stout base really pops with an overlay of bourbon that melds very nicely. A friend sitting next to me this past weekend tried the CR for the first time and stated "I think this very well may be the best beer I've ever had.....". I find the CR to be somewhat more complex that the BBP giving up flavors of coffee, bourbon, dark malts, bitter chocolate and toffee. Again, the brew is not sticky sweet or too overpowering. 

I've managed to locate a number of these little gems locally so I've procured and bunkered them down for later enjoyment. These should age quite nicely. 

These two selections come in bomber size bottles and run about $8-$10 retail.