As I've mentioned in previous posts, I belong to a group of like minded enthusiasts and in our passion for all things bourbon, we also buy barrels; making bi-annual pilgrimages to Kentucky to taste and pick our way through what we feel are honey barrels.
Selections picked last September have been slowly rolling in over the last couple of months with the latest arrival just this week (Old Weller Antique).
Willett 8 Year 128.5 proof - This bottle is the 4th installment of a series of barrels over the last couple of years that have turned out some outstanding bourbon. Big flavor, low heat and long finish is the profile we typically shoot for and this has it all in spades. This bourbon is almost insidious in the way it drinks. Big flavors of caramel, vanilla, oak with an underlying creaminess. Finish is long and delicious. Even at barrel proof, this bourbon is too easy to drink right out of the bottle.
Willett 18 year 140.8 proof - This is the second 18 year I've picked up of this particular bourbon which is a wheat mashbill. This is a big whiskey and bold because of its age. This bourbon rolls over the palate in layers exhibiting creme brulee on entry with molasses, dark fruit and semi-bitter chocolate. Complex, gripping and all around top shelf. The wood influence is completely in check and adds to the overall balance of this bourbon. This bourbon cut down to around 110 proof opens up nicely and brings out the more subtle qualities of this bourbon. Superb.
Four Roses (OESO) 10 year 8 month 112.2 proof - It wasn't too long ago I'd tell you I don't like Four Roses. With the help of the fine folks at Four Roses they've converted me to a fan. This is the fourth barrel pick I've been involved with and to date, this one is my favorite. Four Roses uses 10 different recipes that are a combination of various grain and yeast to achieve this. The OESO is a 75% corn mashbill using the "O" yeast. The profile is described as fruit (red berries), medium body. Fruit indeed and lots of it. This is a silky smooth bourbon and at the barrel proof of 112, devoid of heat but plenty of flavor. The nose exhibits traces of floral, caramel and a hint of mint. This particular recipe is far outside the flavor bounds of the normal OBSV recipe which is why I like it.
Old Weller Antique 8 year 107 proof #5 - I've been a fan of Old Weller Antique for many years. A couple years back Buffalo Trace made the decision to change the bottle design and remove the age statement of 7 years. It's a real shame they did that. So, since I couldn't purchase the age stated OWA, the next best thing is buy my own. During the pick in September, the tasting panel could not decide between barrel 5 or 6 so we did the logical thing, bought both. #5 is the crowd pleaser with an essence similar to a younger Pappy Van Winkle 15 with big flavor of caramel sweetness; a candied profile with a long warming finish. I could drink this all day long and not lose interest. To me, one of the best OWA I've had from the BT barrels.
Old Weller Antique 8 year 107 proof #6 - This barrel and #5 came from the same distillate run yet the flavor profile could not be more different. This selection has a little more heat than #5 and exhibits a baking spice profile layered with dark chocolate, wood, fruit and a heat pop on the finish. My lips were tingling as I sipped on this bourbon. If bourbon had emotions, this one would be introspective and slightly brooding while 5 would be cheery and tranquil.
I spent a number of years chasing down limited release whiskey such as Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Parkers Heritage and others. That practice has stopped as my focus is now on these personal barrel picks. To me, this gives me the opportunity to zero in on what we, as a group, truly believe is some of the best bourbon out there.