Friday, November 27, 2009

Shifting vices

I have two vices; whiskey and tobacco which consist of cigars and pipe. Whenever winter begins to set in, the winds of change overtake my whiskey and smoking habits, I can't explain it, it just happens. During temperate months I drink bourbon and smoke cigars almost exclusively but as colder weather sets in, I rotate in Scotch and pipe smoking. There's just something about cold weather and my pipe with a nice dram of Single Malt Scotch. Am I alone? I know this blog is about bourbon but I'm curious if anyone else shakes things up a little as winter sets in. As the Thanksgiving celebration settled down last night, I sat on the front porch enjoying a bowl of pipe tobacco for the first time in quite a few months. It was really nice and I look forward to having another. Another change over the winter is a gravitation toward higher proof bourbons like George T. Stagg or William LaRue Weller; typically cut with a little water or a small cube of ice.

So let's hear it, stay the course or take a right turn and go off road for the winter?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Project Re-barrel VOB – Day one

As promised, the deed is done. 6.5 bottles of Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond dump into a new white oak, medium char barrel. As I began to pour in the bourbon, leaking started and I thought "uh oh…..bad barrel". But very soon the leaking stopped and I finished pouring in all bottles, popped in the bung and stared at the barrel for while like an idiot. So, as I said, the barrel will be placed in the backyard shed and over time, I'll pour off small samples and provide tasting notes. I kept back about 375ml as a reference bourbon of what went into the barrel and you can find tasting notes here for the standard VOB BIB. It was suggested that I keep a close eye on the barrel for the first few weeks just to make sure things are going smooth so I plan on doing that.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Project Re-barrel – Very Old Barton BIB

A friend of mine conducted a re-barrel project about 18 months ago with very good results. For those that are unfamiliar with re-barreling, it's taking bottles of whiskey and dumping them back into a charred barrel. Simple as that…..almost. First, selecting the whiskey is kind of important. If the whiskey or bourbon you want to re-barrel isn't that good to begin with then chances are what comes out won't be that much better. So, picking a good whiskey for starters is key. Another important aspect is the entry proof. Going with at least 100pf means I'm starting with something that has greater potential for change (e.g. increase in proof over time). Re-barreling an 80pf bourbon wouldn't result in much change would be my guess. For my project, I'm going with Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond which is a darn good bourbon for a paltry $11 a 750. This particular bourbon is of course 100 proof and 6 years old, and pretty tasty. I really wanted to get this project going this last summer but work and other life issues got in the way so here I am almost to Thanksgiving ready to purchase a barrel and dump away. I wanted to post a short blog just to alert you of my newest dorky activity. It's going to be fun and based on my friend's success, looking forward to the progress through next spring and summer. I'll post progress reports as I go and when I'm ready to dump and seal the barrel, I'll post that as the starter

Day 14, Day 55, Finish

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Exam-o-dram – 2000 Evan Williams Single Barrel

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.