Monday, January 20, 2014
Color is a rich gold and the viscosity produces nicely spaced legs down the side of the glass. Nosing this whisky exhibits a rich fruit profile with a subtle sherry notes as well.
The entry is classy, sophisticated and captivating.....and I hate using these goofy descriptors but I'm not sure how else to describe a nearly perfect Scotch. Balvenie produces solid whiskies but Tun 1401 is multiple steps above anything else they release. As the whisky hits the palate I taste summer fruits, stone fruits and mild mature oak with a touch of spice all with perfect balance. This whisky is smooth and creamy, has fantastic mouthfeel with a long warming finish. Bravo David Stewart.
I wish I could afford to bunker multiples of each batch but I'm happy to have this one.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was contacted by a PR firm in New York representing Concannon and asked if I would review the whiskey. I accepted the offer to and they sent me a couple of sample bottles. I only mention this so it's clear there are no expectations that my review be anything but my own and that's the way this review will be represented.
Concannon Irish is a blend from Cooley aged for about 4 years and then goes through a second fill in Concannon petit Sirah wine casks for about 4 months. I'm intrigued.....let's see what it taste like.
The color is a very pale-straw like color. As I swirl the whiskey, the viscosity is limited not really clinging to the glass. The nose is light and fruity with a definite presence of wine, almost to the dominant. The grain aroma is there but the wine influence masks the grain to some extent.
The entry is immediately sweet and then some grain and youth pops up at mid palate and continues toward the finish. The wine notes are present but not as dominant as the nose. The wine finish amps up the sweetness of the whiskey a bit and at mid palate oak takes a front seat along with bits of vanilla and essence of spun sugar. There's an off note on the medium finish that I can't put my finger on that's maybe a combination of oak and tannin. After a few minutes I can taste mild grape on the palate which is a little odd.
This is an interesting expression but not one I would say is great. It's an easy drinker, approachable and unassuming. The wine presence may put some people off but I think it's an interesting experiment. For me, I would prefer less of the wine influence and a little more age on the distillate as it needs more body and maturity.
I like the fact that Concannon is thinking outside the box and not just releasing another blended expression and for about $25 or less a bottle, it's a small investment to give it a try if this interest you.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
The Bowman Brothers was a nice pour but average overall and not very captivating. The John J. was more appealing and overall an above average bourbon and I ended up purchasing two bottles. The Abraham Bowman was fantastic. To quote a friend after trying it "Big, huge, sweet, delicious!!!"
The color is golden amber and in the glass is viscous producing slow, well placed legs. The nose is very inviting showing little heat, dark fruit, caramel, cooking spice (clove, cinnamon). What's lacking that I fully expected is a woody profile, at least in some fashion, but it's not there. For a bourbon this old, this is unusual.
The entry is big on flavor, showing minimal heat, no oak or woodiness at all which reinforces the nose. The mouthfeel is very nice, thick with a syrup quality showing flavors is caramel, spice, sweet fruits of plum, dark berries with some barrel char popping up at the back of the palate. The finish is long, long, long. Transitions on the back of the palate start with those dark fruits and moves on to dark chocolate like quality and then very slowly diminishes. At the very tail end, the barrel strength heat numbs the palate ever so slightly. A full two minutes after the last sip, the finish is still present.
If you let the bourbon sit in the glass for a period of time, say 20 mins or so, the spice and berry flavors come forward a bit and the nose opens up and exhibits age like an old leather bound book.
Truman was asked about the various provenance of Bowman bourbons and he succinctly stated "Kentucky". Well, that doesn't narrow it down very much. At 18 years old, this bourbon pre-dates the purchase of Bowman by Buffalo Trace so where this bourbon came from is a bit of a mystery. It could be Ancient Age but who knows where Bowman was sourcing their bourbon from in the early 1990's.
This bourbon is fantastic. At barrel strength, it's way too easy to drink right out of the bottle and it does handle water very well and right around 107 proof, it opens up very nicely exhibiting a flavor profile that includes burnt brown sugar and dark chocolate.
I know that The Party Source has done two barrel picks of the 18 year making both of those single barrels over this bourbon which is a small batch. If you're traveling through Virginia and near Fredericksburg, stop off a ASB and pick up a bottle or three.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
For American rye the mashbill must be at least 51% rye. The remaining percentage will be corn and malted barley and distilled to not more than 160pf and put into a new charred oak barrel at not more than 125pf. To be called Straight Rye, it must be aged at least two years. Prior to prohibition, rye whiskey was abundant in the Northeast U.S. as there were distilleries in Pennsylvania and Maryland but after Prohibition, those distillery disappeared. Today, rye whiskey is made by the large distillers that includes Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill and various micro distilleries scattered throughout the U.S. Another large producer of rye whiskey that's far off the radar and one you've probably never heard of is Lawrenceburg Distillery Indiana (LDI) who also produces many other spirits such as bourbon, gin and grain neutral spirits (GNS).
Rye whiskey for many years was the dominant whiskey consumed in the U.S. but then dropped off significantly over time but more recently it's been making a comeback and as a result, we've seen many new labels showing up on the shelves. One such producer is High West Distillery based out of Park City Utah which is where the High West 12 Year Rye comes from. High West offers other whiskies and what's exciting is the variation and quality of the whiskey being distributed.
The 12 Year Rye was tasted blind by 13 participants and they were asked to rate the whiskey based on a 100 point scale and provide tasting comments. My feedback on this particular whiskey is as follows:
Color: Moderate golden hue, medium depth
Nose: More floral profile on this one. Mild yet appealing
Entry: Nice combination of sweet/spice. Reasonably balanced showing a bit of age. Spice kicks in about mid palate. Mouthfeel a little on the thin side.
Finish: Moderately long with spice dominating most of the way and then subsiding giving way to a little sweet rye flavor.
Rating: Compelling and appealing. I like this one. This one gets a 87.
The group ratings were:
95-100 A Classic Whiskey - 1
90-94 Excellent Whiskey - 2
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey - 7
80-84 Average Whiskey - 4
There were no scores below 80
Additional group comments included:
"A well-balanced rye, probably 5-8yo. The original spirit is still hanging on with the barrel notes add to the experience. Needs a bit more depth though"
"both sweet and bitter, a good combo finish...falls off a little at the end"
"The mint is in check on this one and this strikes me as a good rye, but the taste just falls flat for me and really knocks this one down"
"Hmm… rye and menthol. There is some spice, but it is hidden behind the menthol touches. Not bad juice, just not something I would reach for"
"Nice transition to a long, dry finish. Begs for another sip"
This rye may not be found in many markets but I would at least call your local liquor store or ABC manager and ask them about availability. Bottle is 750ml and priced about $35.
Monday, January 31, 2011
It's September 2006 and I'm in Kentucky attending the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. On this particular sunny day, I'm at the Jim Beam Distillery enjoying a tour with Fred Noe, the Brand Ambassador and a member of the Beam family (seventh generation). As we tour the facility, we enter the dump house where they are drilling out the bung of bourbon barrels and dumping the contents in troughs. Fred hands out small glasses and advises that if we want a taste, just slip the glass under the flow of bourbon coming from the barrel. You didn't have to ask me twice and I filled up my glass. I still remember nosing and tasting Knob Creek at barrel strength and proclaimed out loud, "I would love it if you would bottle this at barrel strength". It was delicious bourbon. Translated down to the normal Knob Creek 9 year 100 proof, it just didn't capture my attention like the barrel strength version did and since 2006, I've only had one bottle of normal Knob Creek.
The news came out around mid summer of 2010 that Jim Beam was going to release a single barrel version but at the time, we really didn't know it was also going to be a higher proof. In October John Hansell did a review of the new Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 120 proof and rated it a 94. This is telling because the difference may not seem like much but it's actually two factors that set this apart from the normal Knob Creek Small Batch. Both version are 9 years old and of the same mashbill. Where they diverge is one being a single barrel and the other being a small batch. The single barrel is 120 proof and the small batch is 100 proof. To me, those are two big factors and the taste tells the rest of the story. Keep in mind, a single barrel of anything will vary from barrel to barrel so you may not get the same experience over multiple bottles. The small batch is supposed to have a more consistent flavor profile.
Color is moderate amber and very inviting to the eye. Nosing this bourbon it definitely has more complexity than the normal Knob Creek offering; aroma's of dried fruit, toffee, rye floral and oak. This bourbon has a very nice nose on it. Entry is bold, sweet with lively spice at mid palate. A nice mingling of flavors transitions to a finish that is actually quite long leaving a slight tingling on the lips. The finish fades to a creamy state with no bitterness. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not been a fan of Jim Beam bourbon over the years and the only one that I can truly say that I like is a 1982 Jim Beam White. Well, that changed with this offering. The Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is a nice bourbon, pleasant to drink and is moderately priced at around $40. I feel the same way about this bourbon's price as I did the Makers 46; a little on the high side but still worth getting at least one bottle and give it a spin.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
I purposely set my expectations low because I really didn't have any prior experience with Makers Mark other than the normal red wax offering. Normal Makers Mark is a fairly uneventful bourbon. I'm not saying it's bad but for me, I like a little more pop to my bourbon. Enter Makers 46.
I had checked the Virginia ABC website and they listed it but the stores were a little slow in getting it on the shelves. About 2 weeks ago I walked into an ABC store and thankfully, they had just put it on display that morning priced at $34 a 750ml. Because this bourbon is finished with French oak staves as a flavoring component, it cannot be called Straight Bourbon Whiskey, just Bourbon Whiskey. Like all Makers Mark bourbon, this one is a wheated bourbon also.
The packaging is very attractive with a new shaped bottle for this release but of course, the red wax dripping down the side is still present. Overall, a good choice of bottle
The color is of moderate amber with shades of orange when held up to the light
The nose is quite a bit better than normal MM with loads of caramel and wood notes. There's a sweetness that comes through on the nose that's reminiscent of candy apple.
The entry was surprising with a pop of spice on the tongue. The spice isn't a rye type spice but more like a baking spice; cloves and cinnamon which I suspect comes from the oak staves but I can't say with any degree of certainty. Mid palate the bourbon takes on a nice candied sweetness and then begins to diminish a little too soon and finishes up slightly dry.
For a new product from Makers Mark, this is really great start. I'm not sure I'll keep this as a regular open bar item but that's only because of the price which I think is a little steep. I really hope this product sells well so it encourages Makers Mark to continue experimentation on different bourbon offerings. If you like a regular Makers or wheated bourbons in general, you should like this one as well.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
This is one of those uber-aged bourbons and it comes from Julian Van Winkle at Buffalo Trace. This is still (or at least should be) Stiztel Weller bourbon because at 20 years old, this particular bourbon would have been distilled in 1986, 6 years prior to the distillery closure. My first love of bourbon really gravitated toward the wheated variety early on in my bourbon experience; I had access to Stitzel Weller Old Fitz and loved the creamy, candied quality to this particular wheated bourbon. As I expanded my bourbon horizon I naturally gravitated towards wheated bourbons and most of those from Buffalo Trace. The Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons are very good whiskey's and my personal order of preference starts with the 15 year, 20 year and then 23 year. The 20 year old Pappy is a bold bourbon even at 90.4 proof and provides a pleasant drinking experience.
The bottle is really a non-descript standard shape; nothing eye catching. The Label on the other hand has a nice picture of Pappy Van Winkle smoking his trademark stogie along with red lettering and gold accents. The bourbon comes in the standard 750ml size with a red foil top and can be found in a cheesy velvet bag on most occasions.
As I nose this bourbon, there's a fruity quality to it that at first I wouldn't expect as most wheated bourbons have a caramel, vanilla and brown sugar trait to it. The nose is soft and velvety with the alcohol sitting in the background not intruding on the experience. Moving my nose deeper into the glass and taking in a deeper whiff brings some of the alcohol to the foreground along with a hint of citrus.
The color is a soft golden hue and really is not very eye catching. Although it is extra aged which typically gives the bourbon a deeper color, cutting the proof to 90.4 lightens up the bourbon to an average depth and tone.
Now to the most appealing part of this bourbon and that's the taste. I heard some folks say that they feel this bourbon is too soft and they prefer something more "lively". While I would agree in part, I don't think that one dimensional. If I want something with moderate complexity, extra age and delicious, then I reach for Pappy 20. On entry there's an oily mouthfeel; a quality that I really like in bourbon. I pick up the fruit initially but then the transition to mid palate quickly exhibits flavors of vanilla, caramel, leather and some bold oak but not overstated for bourbon this aged. I pick up traces of smoke also but I have to dig for it. The finish is lengthy and appropriate for the proof.
This bourbon isn't cheap. The bottle I have bunkered I paid $85 for in 2007 but it now goes for around $120 and then some. The bourbon used for this review was a sample given to me by a friend and as I stated, was bottled in 2006. The whole Pappy Van Winkle line is good bourbon and always a good drinking experience. If you can handle the high price tag, pick up a bottle and enjoy on some special occasion.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I've been collecting this particular release for some time now and I have bottles that go back to 1988 distillation. The EWSB was first released in 1996 with a distillation of 1986. I have not had the first release but a friend of mine who has informed me it wasn't that good. In fact, the first release was 1995 but was not distributed at the retail level but was done more as a test run, at least that's the story told to me. The EWSB has received a number of awards over the years as reported on the Evan Williams website. The nice thing about this particular bourbon is that it's a well aged bourbon, single barrel proofed at 86.6 and runs around $20 a 750ml. Keep in mind that since it's a single barrel, there will be variations from bottle to bottle.
This year Evan Williams Single Barrel (EWSB) is sporting a new look which I actually like over the previous packaging. It's a clean simple look as far as the labeling goes, the bottle shape and black wax remains as in previous releases. The label size is under proportioned to the bottle as compared to other bourbons and I like this as it allows me an unobstructed look through the glass getting the full exposure of color.
The color is a moderate shade with hues of orange and gold, depending how it's held up to the light, in fact, the color caught my eye as I was reaching for the bottle in the package store.
Nosing this bourbon is interesting and I think more complex that other variants I've had over the years. My first thought when nosing was it smelled more like a rye whiskey than rye bourbon. On the nose is oak, rye, blue flowers and muted aspects of bubble gum, smoke and vanilla. On entry this bourbon is a little zinger; not overpowering but the rye is very present. Secondary attributes are a mild sweetness after the rye subsides, blue flowers, leather and mild flavors of bubble gum and smoke. I think the finish is unfortunately understated and dry as the short burst of rye on entry diminishes too quickly and leaves the drinker wishing for more.
I like the opening nose and flavors of this bourbon but wish the finish was longer. I purchased this bottle in the Virginia ABC store and paid $23.95 for it. This bottle was barreled on 3-30-00 and bottled on 10-14-09 from barrel 37.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The bottle I have is a square, 750ml bottle with a light tan (or off white) cap, neck and front label with Ancient Age written in script type lettering. The bottle reminds me of an old style bottle. The Bottled in Bond designation on the front label means it's a 100 proof, at least 4 years old and from the same distillery of the same distillation season. This bourbon I have was bottled in 2006 and while there is no age statement on the label, I don't think it's much older than 4 years. An interesting thing missing from the label (front or back) is the Distilled Spirits Plant designation which would be DSP-KY-113 and would indicate Buffalo Trace Distillery. The reason may be because there is a brief history of the Buffalo Trace distillery on the label on each side of the bottle. My understanding is that it's a legal requirement to indicate the distillery for Bottled in Bond bourbons and the fact that they have the distillery name rather than the DSP number satisfies the legal condition.
On nosing this bourbon, I pick up some youthful vigor as the rye is evident up front. I don't pick up much in the way of wood, vanilla or floral as I would expect with a rye bourbon, therefore, I'm thinking this is probably not more than 5 years old or less, but that's just my opinion. The initial taste is a spirited burst of rye flavors, not much in the way of sweetness and it transitions to a mild tannic state and then diminishes. The finish is pretty short for the proof as I have lower proof bourbons with much longer finishes. In a very slight way, this reminds me of Wild Turkey on the initial taste, but the Turkey has more depth attributed to more age. All in all, this is not a bad bourbon for the price. I think this would do well in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned or mixed with a nice Ginger Ale like Blenheim's Hot. Another concept to try, if you're feeling adventurous, is vatting; the mixing or blending of two bourbons attempting to get an outcome that is better than either of the two individually. I do this with Charter 101 and Ancient Ancient Age 10 year. The higher proof and younger age of the Charter, blended with the older lower proof AAA makes a very nice vatting.
Monday, September 7, 2009
This is a new offering from Buffalo Trace and looking at the bottle it states "Old Charter Distilling Company", which of course doesn't exist. It's a Buffalo Trace product pure and simple. Charter has been around for quite a few years, in fact, more than a few years. According to historical records, it appears that "Old Charter" was introduced in 1874. The current Charter 101 states on the front "Since 1874", that is without the word Old. Before I talk about what's inside, I'll mention that I like the design of this bottle which has been around for some time. I like the shape which has a scalloped crown and wheat stocks pressed into the sides of the bottle with white and gold old style lettering on the face. I have bottles of Old Charter in my bunker that consist of various Charter releases which include Old Charter Classic 90 (out of production), Old Charter Proprietors Reserve (out of production), Old Charter 7, 10, and 12 year old. There is a current release of Old Charter that is age stated at 8 years old.
Now to the bourbon itself and we'll start with the color which is a medium colored amber/orange hue that shows its got proof or age going for it. In this case, it's the proof at 101. Nosing this bourbon I pick up vanilla, which is a fairly common character in bourbon, dried fruit, a little mustiness which could be leather or tobacco quality. The mustiness is a quality found in a couple of Buffalo Trace offerings. The bourbon itself is not oily and the legs descend at a fairly rapid pace after swirling the glass and appears to be a little thin in consistency. On entry this bourbon packs some nice flavor exhibiting some sweetness and spice up front but then transforms into heat toward the mid palate which hides the flavor components found on entry. The finish contains a little bite at the end. I would be surprised if this bourbon is any older than 4 years as it appears to be on the young side. Overall, it's a nice bourbon that can be sipped neat but can also be used as a mixer without guilt. For the price of about $15 depending on your market, it's not a bad pour. For me, not a bourbon I would go to as a daily pour (which I drink neat on most occasions). But for some, this may be the ticket. I just wish this was a little older at this proof.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm very partial to Eagle Rare 101. The current iteration which comes in at 90 proof is nothing like the 101. When I first tried ER101 I smelled and tasted malted milk balls, which I love, therefore it was love at first taste. Eagle Rare has been parented by a couple of owners and as a result, the profile has gone through some changes. But for the most part, it's a very good bourbon and unfortunately was discontinued by Buffalo Trace back in 2005.
Eagle Rare entered the market in 1975 and was started as a counter to Wild Turkey and Heaven Hill did the same thing with the release of Fighting Cock. Eagle Rare was a Seagram's product who also owned the Four Roses Distillery. In 1989 the Sazerac Company (Buffalo Trace) purchased Eagle Rare and Benchmark Brands from Seagram's.
Eagle Rare 101 is one of those benchmark bourbons that rise above others of similar breed but I'll caveat that statement by saying that while the label stayed the same through acquisition, the mash bill did not. Seagram's, to my knowledge, used the now Four Roses distillery for their Eagle Rare brand, which was a high rye mash bill and more than likely consisted of a vatting of a couple of recipes. Four Roses does this today with their Small Batch release and Seagram's was known to do this when they were producing. After Buffalo Trace acquired the label, I believe they switched to a low rye recipe, thus the profile changed. To its credit, Eagle Rare was still a very good whiskey even with the change in recipe so any bottle you can find whether from Seagram's Old Prentice Distillery or Buffalo Trace, this is a bottle you should try and find.
If you go into a liquor store and See Eagle Rare on the shelf, don't celebrate too fast because this is more than likely the current Single Barrel 90 proof version. The 101 was not a single barrel.
Now, to the overall experience of the Eagle Rare, I currently have a bottle that was distilled in 1972 and bottled in 1982. This came from a eagle decanter that was part of a four series release. The bourbon inside is quite good. I mentioned in the first paragraph about picking up malted milk balls on the nose and palate. Well, that was a Buffalo Trace release of the Eagle Rare, not Seagram's which is what was in the decanter. This variant has a very nice nose with traces of candy shop, nuts and caramel. On the palate the proof does not dominate the experience but compliments the flavors, almost accentuating them. The taste validates what the nosing revealed; candied nuts, caramel and maybe a hint of citrus. The mouth feel was full and robust with a nice oily texture. The finish is medium to long dispersing the flavors until you're left with a slight tingle on the tongue.