Yup, sorry for the lag in posting but recent life events have taken priority. I wanted to finish up the spring pickings which ended on Friday with a visit to Four Roses and Jim Beam.
Jim selected 10 barrels representing 9 of the 10 Four Roses recipes with OESQ missing from the lineup. In its place, we had two barrels representing the OBSO recipe. As a group, the tasting is done pretty much in silence with the idea being to analyze the bourbon and write down thoughts and scores in order to avoid undue group influence. We also requested Jim not have the barrel heads facing forward in order to avoid any pre-knowledge of the recipes selected in order to taste all selections in the blind. Most of us conduct at least two passes on each sample so after about 30-40 mins we wrapped up and collected each tasters top 4 selections. The vitals on the top four are as follow:
1. OBSO 11 years 7 months
2. OESK 9 years 7 months
3. OBSK 10 years 7 months
4. OBSV 10 year 3 months
My number one pick was number four, the OBSV. My notes reflected a creamy, sweet caramel bourbon with a long finish. As a group we only picked the top two. In the end, individual members made commitments for an additional 4 barrels. I chose to pick up barrel four with one other person.
I've received the first two Four Roses and am waiting on my barrel which should arrive sometime in October. This was another great tasting but was also a little bittersweet as this was the last one with Jim as Master Distiller. He's retiring come September 1st. The new Master Distiller, Brent Elliot, has already announced changes to the barrel program where they will roll out younger barrels. Additionally, Four Roses is running low on three recipes so those most likely will not be included, at least for a time, in the barrel program. Finally, Four Roses will no longer ship samples to retailers wishing to purchase a store barrel. If you want to purchase one, you'll need to buy a ticket to KY and visit the distillery in person.
Now on to Jim Beam. The afternoon brought us to Jim Beam's American Stillhouse facility where we met up with Craig Weiter, Beams barrel program manager. Our group was much smaller as we limited the number of people attending this tasting due to room limitations in the rickhouse. Craig loaded us on a bus and off we went to WHSE K. Last year we picked three barrels from Jim Beam so I was stoked about leading this group for another tasting with Beam. On arrival we saw four barrels were pulled to taste from. I have to admit, I had some disappointment as I was hoping we would have at least 6-8 barrels to select from. Having only four barrels limits the potential of finding something we would want to buy. Fortunately, Craig did a nice job pulling the barrels and had tasting notes from his perspective already formulated.
We tasted through the four and found one we felt met our groups benchmark for purchase. This barrel was pulled from WHSE P and was distilled on Nov 13, 2003, making this a little over 11 years old. The proof was 129 at cask which meant there would be a small dilution to get it down to 120 for the Knob Creek 120 bottle. Many of our barrel picks are of course bottled at cask (Four Roses, Willett, Smooth Ambler) and we asked Craig if Jim Beam had any plans to offer a cask single barrel offering. He indicated that come 2016, Knob Creek will begin offering a 130 proof bottling which will be included in the barrel program. Good news for us.
On a side note, we paired up with a large retailer we've done a lot of business with over the years to pick barrels from Wild Turkey. While the retailer was there to pick barrels for the store shelves, we were able to finagle a single barrel Russells Reserve for our group. I have it in and boy is it fantastic. It's almost reminiscent of old style Turkey. I'll review the bourbons in a separate post.