Thursday, December 13, 2018

Old Ezra 7 101-Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

If you are still knee-deep in the chase for the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection or anything Van Winkle, you may have missed the accolades received for Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength Bourbon. In fact, I reviewed it back on October 17th, before the hype on that began. And, while I did rate it a Bottle, there is another version out there, albeit discontinued, that is still readily available and quite affordable: Ezra Brooks 7 Year 101° Bourbon.

Ezra Brooks is produced by Luxco, now known as Lux Row Distillers. Produced means that they didn’t do the actual distilling. Instead, they sourced whiskey from Heaven Hill. That’s fine, there’s nothing in the world wrong with sourcing, just so long as there’s no deceit involved on the label. The mash bill is created from 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. If the label didn’t give the hint, it is seven years old and bottled at 101°. It retails for right around $20.00.

While I loved the Barrel Strength version, and have been a fan of the (also) discontinued 12-year Ezra B, I’ve never had the 101° release until now. Is this an opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf, or will this be a dud? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out…

In the glass, this was a lighter-colored amber than I would have suspected, both from a proof and age point of view. The color most resembled citrine. Against the wall of my Glencairn, it created a thin rim that generated fat, wavy legs that were in no rush to get back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

A wave of caramel hit my olfactory senses even while still at arm’s length. As I brought the glass through my nosing range, vanilla and berry enticed. There was a bit of oakiness, but again, not amounts that I would have expected. What was missing was any hint of ethanol. When I inhaled the vapors through my lips, the caramel was king.

The mouthfeel had me again questioning how this could be 101°. There was just no burn. It was, however, thick and coating while it ran over my palate. Up front were vanilla and oak, which dominated everything that followed. I picked up orange slice candy and at that point, the mouthfeel became creamy. Behind the orange was a drier oak, clove and dark chocolate.

A deceptive medium finish held onto the front of the palate. This is where the oak disappeared. Vanilla remained along with that dark chocolate. I waited about two minutes before the clove snuck up and proved how long the finish continued.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: There is a big difference between Old Ezra 101° and Old Ezra Barrel Strength. Sixteen points is a big deal, so much so that the Barrel Strength is about twice the cost. I see Old Ezra 101° on the shelves despite being discontinued, but at some point, that’s going to change. I found this Bourbon to be very enjoyable and full of surprises, and for the money, this is a definite Bottle. Grab it while you can.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Recently, I reviewed Treaty Oak’s Red-Hand Rye. I mentioned how impressed I was with the transparency provided. However, with the Rye, I was left confused and stated, “if you poured this for me completely blind, I couldn’t tell you what kind of whiskey I was drinking.” 


I was provided with additional samples of Treaty Oak’s whiskeys, including their own grain-to-glass Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon Whiskey. As before, I thank Treaty Oak for the opportunity to provide an honest review of their whiskeys with no strings attached. 


Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon is created from heirloom grains from Barton Springs Mill.  The mash is made of 57% yellow corn, 32% wheat, and 11% barley. Everything from mashing to bottling is completely handled start-to-finish on premises and aged two years in new, #3 charred American white oak barrels. It is bottled at 95° and retails for $49.99 which is right at the average for American craft whiskey. 


Currently, Treaty Oak distributes its products in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Illinois and the District of Columbia. They do hope to increase distribution as the distillery grows. Is Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon worth checking out?  Time to #DrinkCurious...


In my Glencairn, the color was a darker amber than I expected from a two-year whiskey. It left a thin rim on the glass that produced slow, fat legs to drop back into the pool of Texas liquid sunshine.  


The first aromas to hit my nose were fresh sawdust and cherries. As I perused through my nosing zone, smoked oak and vanilla took over but yielded once again to the cherries.  An obvious maltiness was in the upper zone. Inhaling through my lips was a strong fruitiness that made my mouth water. 


A thin and watery mouthfeel created an almost déjà vu situation. Just like the Red-Hand Rye, my thought was, “What am I drinking?” But, that was the first sip, and as I always recommend, never, ever judge anything on that sip. An additional sip revealed the same watery mouth, and I was able to start discerning flavors. Sweet corn was absolutely up front, however, it was mellowed by the wheat. Behind that, a light fruit, followed by a muted chocolate. Underneath the chocolate was dry oak and bold spiciness, which could cause one to review the mash and look for non-existent rye. 


The finish was shorter than I would imagine, especially considering how quickly the spice built at the end. I typically enjoy whiskeys at higher proofs, and 95° is not a big deal. However, my hard palate was left tingling just a smidge.  There was also a residual smokiness that was reminiscent of peat.  If you’re not into Scotch, peat can be shocking to the palate. Peat is so unusual with Bourbon that whenever it does come up, it is a curiosity. I must stress that the peatiness is very, very slight. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon Whiskey hits an attractive quality with me, meaning, it is unique and not another me-too MGP product. That’s a good thing for craft whiskeys. A peated finish, even ever-so-slight, is something that will attract Scotch aficionados and can risk turning off those who haven’t experienced it. I was a Scotch drinker way before I ever tasted my first Bourbon, and as such, I look to it as a positive quality.


My rating is going to be a Bar for two reasons:  the non-single malt Scotch drinker and the Bourbon drinker. The Scotch drinker will likely be intrigued and can appreciate what a blended grain whiskey offers. In fact, the Scotch drinker may be more attracted to Ghost Hill than a Bourbon drinker.  The Bourbon drinker might look at the wheat content and expect something like Maker’s Mark, which will not be fulfilled and, if not a Scotch drinker, could find the peat confusing.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Infinity Bottle Review: Stank's Concoction #2


What’s an Infinity Bottle? If you’ve never heard the term, the most straightforward explanation is it is a homemade blend of various whiskeys. Typically, people pour an ounce or so of whiskey into a bottle and repeat the process. Some people wait until the bottle is full, while others sip it as they add to it and taste how each addition changes the taste.

Several months ago, I was invited to taste from a friend’s Infinity Bottle. I honestly didn’t expect much and was shocked to find it was one of the best whiskeys I’d tasted. Stank (his nickname) of the Janesville Bottle Club told me he had everything from BTAC to Van Winkles and other fine Bourbons and Ryes in that batch.

One thing I do know is Stank’s approach to Infinity Bottles is different than many. Most folks pour the last remnants of their bottle and add that to the Infinity Bottle. Stank cracks open bottles and adds fresh pours. This methodology means less oxidization in the whiskeys as they enter the Infinity Bottle.

About a week ago, Stank asked me if I’d review his newest Infinity Bottle, which he aptly named Stank’s Concoction #2. Always up for a challenge; I thought it would be fun. And although this is a fun experience, this is a genuine review. Thank you, Stank, for this unique opportunity. Fingers crossed, and time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance: This whiskey’s appearance is very dark, one of the darkest ambers I’ve come across, leading me to believe there are several well-aged, barrel-proof whiskeys in the mix. I’ve got George T. Staggs and Elijah Craig Barrel Proofs that aren’t this deep! I could not get anything beyond the thinnest of rims to leave on the wall of my Glencairn. However, gravity forced some fat droplets that stuck into place, again suggesting something higher proof.

Nose: The nose was much softer and muted than I would assume from its appearance. It made me wonder if that suggested several wheaters were used. As I sniffed in the various nosing zones, I picked up caramel, oak, cinnamon, cherries, and candied fruits. The closer to my nostrils, the sweeter it became, with almost a brandy quality. Inhaling through my mouth added vanilla.

Palate: A very thick liquid coated my tongue and dispersed through my mouth. It became substantially thinner as it moved to my throat. Up front, the palate was full of various flavors, including coffee, red berries, and caramel. Behind that was cinnamon spice, black pepper, and clove, which led to the caramel coming back full circle. That caramel again gave way to the clove, which morphed into oak and pepper.

Finish: That oak hung around the longest on the finish. Pepper and clove alternated with sweet berries, but the oak remained constant.

I have some suspicions as to what’s in this Infinity Bottle. Of course, as it is all blended together, I have no way to know for sure, but I’d bet Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is one of the whiskeys. I’d suspect Blackened (Dave Pickerell’s final project) because of the brandy-like quality. EH Taylor Barrel Proof or a Stagg Jr (or perhaps both), considering all the berries.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This isn’t really relevant but were this for sale, I’d be interested, depending, of course, on the price. There was so much going on that I could invest many pours trying to figure it out. At the same time, I will say that I remember Concoction #1 as being better than Concoction #2.

And, as a closing note, I started my own Infinity Bottle after tasting Concoction #1. I’m doing mine more traditionally, using the last ounce or so of a bottle. But I’m using only Bourbons and only those I deem excellent. Time will tell if I’m doing this right. Cheers!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Resilient Straight Bourbon Barrel 88 Review & Tasting Notes


Is Tennessee Whiskey considered Bourbon?  That’s been an interesting debate going back probably as long as the distinction between the two. Several years ago, I inquired this of a certain now-retired Master Distiller who, in response, winked at me and said it wasn’t. And, as much as I could stir that pot, I won’t for the purposes of my review of Resilient Straight Bourbon Whisky.


Resilient is bottled in Pembroke, Kentucky but they source their barrels.  Some barrels come from MGP, others elsewhere. In the case of Barrel 88, it was distilled somewhere in Tennessee back in June 2004, where it aged for 14 years until bottled this past July at 107°, then sold by BC Merchants out of Chicago.  The distillate is a mash of 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barley, making this a very high-corn Bourbon. It is non-chill filtered, and the barrel yielded 128 bottles. The suggested retail is $84.99.


I’d like to thank BC Merchants for providing me a sample of Resilient Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, unbiased review.  Is Barrel 88 worth chasing down? The only way to answer is to #DrinkCurious and find out.


In the glass, the appearance was a dark, deep amber. It created a very thin rim that produced fat, fast legs to drop back to the pool, usually suggesting a lighter-bodied whiskey.


As I held the rim of my Glencairn at chin-level, there were aromas of mixed-fruits, including apple, pear, and apricot. I lifted it to lip level, and the fruits morphed to caramel and vanilla. Then, hovered just under my nostrils, smells of sugar cookies and oak took over. When I inhaled through my lips, a very definitive cinnamon spice.


The mouthfeel was initially thin, but subsequent sips became creamy and very warming. Up at the front of the palate, the cinnamon spice quickly changed to dark chocolate. The chocolate was soon overcome by dry oak mid-palate and at the back, black pepper, and creamy vanilla.


The finish was spicy and held at the front palate well after traveling down my throat. Minorly on the back, stewed fruits, most likely apricot, but it was admittedly difficult to nail down as it was so muted. Clove then came in very late and stuck around for several minutes.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The nose of Barrel 88 is absolutely the most complex attribute of this incarnation of Resilient Bourbon. I found the mouthfeel interesting and was somewhat entertained by the finish. However, I never quite fell in love with this whiskey. Resilient Barrel 88 isn’t a bad whiskey, but I would have a rough time paying $85 for it. As such, it earns a Bar rating.  Cheers!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Coppercraft Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Today we share the first post in a three-part series featuring products from Coppercraft Distillery. Each post features tasting notes from three different reviewers - none of whom were in communication with each other while performing the reviews. The result is a series of tasting notes and observations that are unique to each reviewer and helps to illustrate the difference in how even experienced whiskey drinkers interpret and rate a whiskey...

You can read this review in its entirety at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Whiskey Ratings - What Do They All Mean?

Let’s face it, there are a lot of reviewers out there writing for websites, magazines, and books. There are several commonalities:  They’ll tell you a bit about the history or backstory, they’ll talk about mashbills, they’ll describe aromas, tasting notes, and finishes. Some will even mention prices and where you can pick up bottles (we do that at Bourbon & Banter, but we’re cool like that). The crux, however, is the recommendation and rating.

There can be great misunderstanding and confusion as it pertains to ratings. When I write reviews, occasionally folks will comment and ask why I don’t do a rating in their preferred manner or using a more “classical” method. Some want a scale of one to five (along with cute icons like Glencairn glasses, thumbs, etc.).  Others request a scale of one to ten.  And, for some, they want a score of one to 100. Then, there’s the 50 to 100, such as those done by Whisky Advocate...

You can read this article in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Peerless Kentucky Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes

I’ve been watching Peerless Distillery for the last few years, mostly following them on social media. When they released their 24-month Rye, I was excited. And, earlier this year, I was able to taste Kentucky Peerless. I’m generally a fan of younger Ryes and found Kentucky Peerless to be very similar in taste to Willett’s Two-Year Rye, which I enjoyed.

Kentucky Peerless 3-Year will soon hit store shelves. I want to thank Peerless Distillery for providing me a sample for a no-strings-attached review.

As you may know, running a distillery is very expensive and starting a new one requires a lot of start-up capital and sunk costs. Many brands source whiskeys to generate income while waiting for their distillate to mature. There’s nothing wrong with that business plan, so long as the brand is being transparent. Other brands wait it out, not wanting to risk a possibly radical change during the transition from sourced to non-sourced distillate. Peerless opted for the latter.

Peerless has also jumped on the non-chill filtered bandwagon. They also do something a bit less common: they distill using a sweet mash versus a sour mash. If you’re unfamiliar with those terms, sour mash means the distillery saves a portion of the mash from an older batch and uses it to start the fermentation process of a new batch. Sweet mash, on the other hand, means that each batch starts with freshly developed yeast.

Peerless also uses a lower barrel entry proof of 107, with the theory that adding water prior to aging means the water becomes an ingredient instead of adding water after dumping the barrel when proofing it down dilutes the flavor.

Peerless is priced in the super-premium category. That makes the big question, “Is this worth it?” Time to #DrinkCurious to get the answer.

In the glass, this barrel proof Rye is a deep amber. It left a thin rim on the walls of my Glencairn that to a fat, wavy curtain to drop back to the pool.

One of the notable differences between the 24-month and the 3-year is a lack of ethanol punch from the 3-year. An aroma of caramel was initially picked up when my glass was at chin level. Underneath that was a familiar floral rye. Raising the glass to my lips added cinnamon. When lifted to just under my nostrils, semi-sweet fruit, and when I inhaled through my mouth, vanillas and cinnamon rolled over my palate.

The mouthfeel was lighter than I expected. I recalled a young Rye sharpness from the 24-month, and it is amazing how another 12 months in the barrel changed a whiskey. Picking up flavors was easy, and the palate was a complex rollercoaster of dark chocolate, clove, stone fruit, oak, and, finally, back to dark chocolate. It was, however, difficult to determine what hit the front, middle, and back of the palate.

At 109.1°, it definitely tingles the hard palate but there is only a muted burn. The finish was a tandem of dark chocolate and oak that gently warmed the throat.

Bar, Bottle or Bust: I was okay with the 24-month, but believed it was overpriced for what it was, especially since I could pick up a similarly-tasting Willett for a third of the price. Assuming a similar price-point as the 24-month, I’d normally be uncomfortable with paying that amount for a three-year. However, this is downright delicious and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. Peerless Distillery did well here, and I’m already curious what the four-year will bring. If you’re unsettled about paying $110 or so for a three-year Rye, try it at a bar. But, I think you’d come to a similar conclusion when I rate this as a Bottle.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Highland Park Valknut SIngle Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

If you’ve never heard of the Scottish city of Kirkwall, that’s okay. There’s not a whole lot that earns attention. Kirkwall is located near the Arctic Circle, at about the same latitude as Anchorage, and is one of several that make up the Orkney Islands. What Kirkwall does have is a remote distillery called Highland Park.

Recently I was provided with a sample of Valknut, the second in Highland Park’s Viking Legend series. I’d like to thank Highland Park for providing me it with no strings attached for my unbiased review.

According to Highland Park, Valknut means “knot of those slain in battle” and represents the story of Odin, the Norse god, guiding souls from the land of living to the underworld and back again.

Highland Park suggests they are located outside Scotland’s five whiskey regions, however, legally they are in the Highland region. Valknut is a peated Highland Scotch. As such, I expect some smokiness associated with the flavor along with a certain amount of fruitiness. For the most part, I enjoy whiskies from this vast, diverse region. Highland Park uses sherry-seasoned oak casks to age Valknut. I assume this is the same as using a sherry cask. Regardless, the big question is, is this Highland Park release worth the suggested $76 investment? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out...

For those unfamiliar with Scotch, it is perfectly legal to add caramel coloring to the finished product to garner a more appealing appearance. Because Scotch is typically aged in used barrels, it often lacks the deep colors we see in Bourbon and American Rye. Highland Park makes a point that Valknut does not contain artificial coloring or additives. The appearance was a rich gold and created a medium-thick rim that led to fat droplets to fall back into the pool.

At chin level, I picked up aromas of vanilla and very slight smoke. When the glass was raised to lip level, pear and oak became evident. Held just under my nostrils, the smoke was more prevalent, effectively muting the pear and vanilla. When I inhaled through my lips, black pepper and vanilla danced on my tongue.

The mouthfeel was thin but creamy. The whisky was initially sweet with raisins which lasted through the mid- and back-palate. Other flavors mingled with the raisins as it traveled across the tongue. Up front was honey and oak, which led to pepper and smoke, and finally morphed to clove and other warm spices.

I found the finish very creamy and long-lasting. The peatiness died out quickly, while the sweetness carried through.

At 46.8% ABV (93.6°), this is almost perfectly proofed. However, I’ve also had several nice experiences adding a few drops of water to peated Scotches. Using an eyedropper, two drops were sufficient to provide noticeable, unexpected changes. I had anticipated a thicker mouthfeel with stronger vanillas. Instead, that small amount of water made the clove explode without changing the mouthfeel but completely wiped out the sweetness. Proofing it down definitely diminished the quality.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: If this was proofed down to 40% or 42% ABV, I’d rate this as a Bust. As I stated, 46.8% seems almost perfect and makes a world of difference. I truly enjoyed it neat and, in the world of Scotch, $76 is a moderate price, and I would be happy to have a bottle in my whiskey library. As such, it earns the Bottle rating. Cheers!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Yellowstone 2018 Limited Edition Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Last year, I reviewed Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition Bourbon. I came to the conclusion that it was enjoyable, but didn’t believe it was worth buying at $99.99. Recently, Limestone Branch Distillery sent me the 2018 version, and I’m grateful they were agreeable to send this with, as always, no strings attached.

Yellowstone 2018 is billed as their “third and final” barrel finishing experiment. It is a blend of Bourbons ranging from between four and twelve years and then finished in #3 char wine casks. Some of the Bourbon does include Limestone’s own distillate. The wine casks are the same as the ones used in the 2016 and 2017 Limited Editions, this time with a much deeper char.

There are approximately 12,000 101° bottles available for release, and the suggested retail is the same as last year: $99.99. The big question in my mind is, is this year’s release worth the price? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out...

In the glass, this liquid sunshine was a deep, dark, almost reddish amber. It produced an ultra-thin rim but created fat, thick legs that dropped back down to the pool. The rim itself remained on the wall of the Glencairn long afterward.

At chin level, the only aroma I picked up was thick, rich caramel. When I raised the glass to lip level, the caramel gave way to cinnamon and vanilla. Just under my nostrils, there was a hint of fruitiness, possibly from the wine, and the caramel returned. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was all crème brulée. Overall, the nose could best be described as “luxurious.”

The mouthfeel was thicker than I expected and coated everywhere. There was also a lot going on with the palate. At the front, there was a much lighter caramel than the nose suggested. The wine cask immediately became a big deal. Without knowing what varietal of wine was used, I’d hazard a guess at either Cabernet or Bordeaux. At mid-palate, the caramel was more obvious, and was joined by brown sugar and barrel char. Finally, vanilla started to shine through.

At 101°, I expected a hotter finish. That reminded me don't assume. Instead, the finish was creamy caramel and vanilla and never even hinted at a burn. I even tried forcing it by having it hit the back of my palate first, and while I got some smoky char, it didn’t warm my throat.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I very much enjoyed this year’s release, it completely eclipsed last year’s, and the comparison isn’t even close. But, we’re back at the question of, “Is this worth $100?” Bourbon inflation is up this year. If I were to blind taste this, I’d guess somewhere in the $70-$80 range. I’m much closer to the $100 price tag than I was for 2017. For those of you skittish at dropping $100 for Bourbon, try it at a bar. I believe you’ll be convinced to grab a Bottle. I don’t believe you’d suffer from buyer’s remorse. Cheers!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Black Feather American Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

I'm always excited to #DrinkCurious. When I was first approached to review Black Feather, it was something I'd not ever heard of, so I jumped at the chance.

Black Feather is a younger, MGP-sourced Bourbon. It comes in a very nice presentation, using a heavy bottle with “Black Feather” embossed in the glass, a thick, paper label, and a wax top. My bottle is from Batch 1...

You can read this review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Every so often, something in the whiskey world hits the market and generates excitement. I’m not talking about BTAC or Pappy Van Winkle. I’m talking about things you and I and everyone else can find and actually afford.

Luxco has just released Old Ezra Barrel Strength Bourbon. It is slated to hit shelves nationwide very soon and has a suggested retail of $39.99. Considering this is a barrel proof, seven year old Bourbon, Luxco definitely piqued my curiosity. Of course, age is just a number, there are bad barrels out there, and an attractive price won’t ever make up for a poor product.

How does Old Ezra Barrel Strength fare? Before I spill the details, I’d like to thank Luxco for providing me a sample with no strings attached.

In my Glencairn, the appearance was a very appealing, clear copper color. It left a thin rim on the wall of the glass which produced thin droplets that never became legs. They simply hung on the rim.

When I lifted the rim to my chin and inhaled, sawdust and caramel permeated my nostrils. I raised it higher to my lips and the caramel became more bold, and I also picked up cinnamon. Letting it hover under my nose changed up the cinnamon to almost Red Hots candy. When I breathed the vapors through my mouth, cinnamon and vanilla flavors raced over my tongue.

The mouthfeel was thin but coating. For 117°, it packed far less of a punch than I anticipated, especially after the nosing.

Cinnamon and oak were definitely up front on the palate, but it toned down quickly with flavors of caramel and a creamy vanilla. On the back, a blend of clove and thick caramel led to a lasting finish that allowed the clove to continue and warm the throat. There was also a very slight stone fruit that came several minutes after the swallow.

Although it wasn’t necessary, I added water to see what would happen. I always use an eyedropper to add exact amounts (two drops). Caramel exploded on the nose, and when inhaled through my mouth, it was all vanilla. The mouthfeel became creamy, and prevalent pepper on the palate soon transformed to strong cinnamon on the tip of my tongue. The finish was still warming but that fruit never appeared. Interestingly enough, the clove didn’t manifest but pepper with water was stronger than the clove was on the finish when neat.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Overall, I found Ezra Brooks Barrel Strength Bourbon enjoyable. I would have preferred that hidden fruit to be less so, but I have to take the whiskey at face value. I also found the proof to be surprising considering the mouthfeel. There just wasn’t much in terms of “burn” that you’d expect. For $39.99, I would happily add this to my whiskey library and as such, will rate this as a Bottle.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Elijah Craig B518 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I'm going to start this off by saying I'm a sucker for Elijah Craig. This doesn't mean that any of the various expressions get a free pass from me, rather, it means when I see a new incarnation, I get excited and will buy a bottle untasted. When reviewing it, I give it the same unbiased opportunity for BottleBar, or Bust as I do with anything else. There have been a couple of unimpressive releases in the barrel-proof versions...

You can read this review in its entirety at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


We’ve all been there. You have a few friends who pick up a pricey bottle, they tell you what a great whiskey is inside and that you have to get a bottle of your own. You consider what your friends say, then consider other options similarly priced, and you pass on the opportunity - at least for the moment.

Joseph Magnus is an MGP-sourced Bourbon that was triple-finished in Cognac, Oloroso Sherry, and Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks...

You can read the remainder of this review in its entirety at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Litchfield Cask Strength Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I know the first question many of you have is, “Is this MGP?” The answer is a definitive, “No.” Litchfield does not source its whiskey. They obtain their corn, rye, and barley from local farmers to create their own mash and distillate.

The appearance was a very deep, dark amber that certainly gave the impression it was much older than three years. It left a very thin rim on the glass and created thick, heavy legs...

You can read the entire review at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Friday, August 31, 2018

#30DaysofBourbon Challenge (2018)


Four years ago I started a little something to celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month. You see, I wanted to go to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. The problem was that life happens, and I couldn't make it work out.

What I wanted to do was start a challenge for myself that would let me feel like I was truly celebrating America's Native Spirit. It couldn't be easy, and it couldn't be something that required little effort. What I did is come up with a 30 Days of Bourbon challenge.

This was something initially just for me. In Year Two, I had a few friends and some of the Bourbon & Banter crew join me. In Year Three it went viral as we put together a calendar and invited all of our readers to join us. What it boiled down to was folks taking part put up over 1800 tweets and 3800 Instagram posts that reached more than 8.5 million people...

You can read the remainder of this post over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Aged & Ore Duo Glass Review


A bit over two years ago, when I was brand new to Bourbon & Banter, I wrote an article called Glassware 101: Choose the Best Glass to Enjoy Your Bourbon. The purpose was to demonstrate just how important glassware is in the entire whiskey experience. I compared the differences between a shot glass, a rocks glass, a white wine glass, a Glencairn glass, and a NEAT glass. In that experiment, the Glencairn came out the clear winner...

You can read the remainder of this review at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Elijah Craig C916 Barrel Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I don't know that Elijah Craig Barrel Proof was ever an overlooked Bourbon, but ever since last year's B517 being named "Whisky of the Year" by Whisky Advocate, its popularity has certainly jumped. I've chased down the Barrel Proof releases since I was introduced to it since back in 2014 (134.8 proof, now referred to B514).

If you're unfamiliar with what the letters and numbers mean, it boils down to the release date. Elijah Craig Barrel Proofs are released three times a year. A is the first release of the year, B the second, and C the third. The numbers are the date. To decode the award-winning B517, it was the second release of the year and was released May 2017.

Today I'm cracking open C916 at 136.0 proof. Decoding this means it was the third release of the year and was from September 2016.

In the glass, the color was a very dark, rich brown. It left a very watery rim and thin, fast legs that raced back to the pool.

I kept the glass about two feet from me and even at that distance, caramel was thick in the air. I let it sit for about ten minutes before nosing it just to let the fumes evaporate. Holding my glass at chin level gave aromas of oak and caramel. When raised to lip level, the caramel remained and it was joined by a hint of citrus and stone fruit. Just under the nostrils, the caramel faded and citrus gained slightly and the stone fruit dominated. Inhaling through my lips was pure orange.

The mouthfeel was thin and oily. It can't be described as coating, although it completely left tingles from my lips to the back of my throat. Flavors of corn and stone fruit were up front, followed by oak, and caramel. The back of the palate found clove and black pepper.

The finish was almost all stone fruit that kept the mouth watering. It mostly resembled cherry and plum. Despite the high proof and the tingling in my mouth, there was relatively little burn, which makes casual sipping easier than you'd guess.

There was so much happening on the palate that I opted to add two drops of water to see how it would change. Remember how strong the caramel on the nose was? It exploded with water. The mouthfeel became thinner but the oiliness went away. Many of the flavors were muted, except it gained a nutty quality. Toasted oak took over the finish.

BOTTLE, BAR or BUST: I try hard to keep an open mind with Elijah Craig. Saying that C916 is one of the better Barrel Proof releases. At the original $60 some-odd, it is an absolute Bottle. Secondary market prices are $75 - $85 and would still be a great buy.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Talisker provides a great lineup and Storm is certainly no exception. I was loving Storm when it was almost twice the price, and last year I was pleasantly surprised to see the price drop. There are still retailers that will charge the original price, but you should search around because I see Storm in store after store anywhere between the $38 to $48 range, even while traveling outside of my home distribution area...

You can read this review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Islay Storm Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


If you’ve been reading my reviews for awhile, you’ll know that my prior experience with Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey left me with a bad taste in my mouth – a really bad taste. It was a taste so bad that it had me skittish to try any other Trader Joe’s exclusives. And, yet, here I am, one year later, embracing the #DrinkCurious lifestyle, ready to risk my palate for the whisky-loving community with Islay Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

You can read this review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Wollersheim Round Top Rye Review & Tasting Notes


There’s a plethora of two-year-old Ryes hitting the market, with some commanding amazingly high price tags. As this market gets more crowded, distillers must distinguish themselves from the competition.

Being a local, I was excited when Wollersheim, who has run a successful winery for several years, opened its distillery and announced it would create whiskeys. I’ve been curiously waiting ever since for something to be released, with my fingers crossed that they’d distill and age something of at least decent quality, as they’ve done a great job creating wines...

You can read the remainder of the review in its entirety at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Blood Oath Pact IV Review & Tasting Notes


I’ve come into this review completely blind. I’ve not had any of the previous Pacts, so I had no preconceived notions. The appearance in the glass is a deep, rich amber. Swirling it around creates a very thin rim, leading to medium legs that drop quickly into the pool...

You can read the review in its entirety at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Old Overholt Bottled-in-Bond Rye Review & Tasting Notes

I’m always excited whenever a new bonded whiskey comes to market. I heard about Old Overholt Bonded Rye hitting the market and, at least this time, Wisconsin was not high on the early distribution schedule. However, yesterday one of my great local liquor store owners let me know that he just got it in. As you can guess, it didn’t take me more than a few hours to grab a bottle of this Rye.

The Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 has very strict guidelines, including straight talk regarding what the label requires. The A. Overholt & Co., a Beam-Suntory subsidiary is listed as both the distiller in Clermont and the bottler in Frankfort. Following the very strict laws of the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, the label shows it is distilled in Clermont and bottled in Frankfort. It is also is bottled at 100° and aged four years, the minimum age required by the Act.

Old Overholt’s mash bill is right around 51% rye, the remainder being corn and barley. That puts it in the same realm as Buffalo Trace’s Rittenhouse Rye. I’ve always enjoyed Rittenhouse, it was the Rye that got me interested in Rye.

So, how does Old Overholt Bonded stack up?

In the glass, the appearance was an orangish amber, reminiscent of the color of iodine. Swirling it around created a thin-to-medium rim that yielded thin, slow legs.

At chin level, a combination of floral rye and sawdust wafted to the nostrils. At lip level, brown sugar was evident, along with a bit of cereal. Lifting it right under my nose made the brown sugar stronger. Inhaling through my lips added vanilla.

The initial mouthfeel was very light and airy. A second sip confirmed it. Flavors of cinnamon and white pepper were up front, patience brought mint and dry oak.

The finish was long and continued to build spice on the front of the palate. It was slightly warming to the throat and a few sips made the hard palate a bit buzzy.

In the future, I’ll do a side-by-side blind tasting with Rittenhouse Rye. As for now, in my opinion, Old Overholt Bonded beat it.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: I’ve heard retail on this was in the mid-twenties. I paid $32.00. That’s more than I wanted to pay, but it is still enjoyable. For the suggested retail, I’d make this a definite Buy. For what I paid, it starts to enter the realm of Bar. If I found it for a lower price I’d absolutely buy another Bottle. Cheers!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Remember When Nobody was Going to Drink Elijah Craig Again?


Do you ever feel worn out? Run down? Past your prime? Have you ever longed for your younger days? Does getting older suck, or is it a great experience?

Taking a quick trip back in time, specifically January 2016, the big news in Bourbon was that Heaven Hill dropped the age statement on Elijah Craig Small Batch. The announcement stated they changing it from a 12-year to a No Age Statement (NAS) blend of barrels that aged anywhere from eight to a dozen years.

The reaction on social media and in whiskey groups was immediate and, to say the least, vitriolic. To be fair, a portion of it was anger over the feeling of being misled. Folks were told since 2014 that the age statement would not be dropped, and then, the rumor turned into reality. The mudslinging was lobbed at everyone, but Bernie Lubbers was the biggest target by far...

You can read the rest of this article over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

World Whiskey Blind Tasting Event at Vom Fass


Last night's Blind Whiskey Event was a blast! I had 18 people show up at VOM FASS University Ave. / DelecTable had no clue in the world what they were getting except for the fact it was going to be whiskey. I poured eight flights:

  • Radermacher 5-year Belgian Single Grain
  • Two Casks (a blend of single malts from Speyburn and Caol Ila)
  • Benrinnes 13-year Speyside Single Malt
  • Bunnahabhain 29-year Islay Single Malt
  • Teeling's Brothers-in-Arms 14-year Irish Single Malt
  • Yahara Bay American Rye
  • Great Glen 8-year (a blend of single malts from the Highland region)
  • Amrita 6-year Indian Single Malt 

The big reveal came after all eight flights were discussed and compared. A big surprise was that the Bunnahabhain was the one the fewest people chose as their favorite (only one chose it), and, as no real shocker, how well the blends were received. Folks who had never tried an Indian whisky before really enjoyed it, and the one that received the most raves was, amazingly enough, the Radermacher Belgian Single Grain.

This was the first time I've done a blind tasting with this many people, and everyone loved the format. This is something I'll be offering on a regular basis.



Friday, March 23, 2018

Stillhouse Black Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


When I was at Distill America X last month, I had the opportunity to try some new releases of whiskey. That’s one of many reasons why I love tasting events – it is the whole discovery aspect and finding something new to enjoy.  One of the booths I stopped by was Stillhouse Spirits Company. The owners are very nice and were kind enough to provide me with a sample of Stillhouse Black Bourbon to review with no strings attached. 


The packaging is certainly unique, and it isn’t every day that you come across Bourbon in a can, although perhaps it is because I see Stillhouse cans in nearly every liquor store I visit. They’ve certainly done a good job of getting their product distributed and because of the can, it grabs a lot of attention. The Black Bourbon is a brand new product destined to hit shelves this summer. 


The can states it is “[a] masterful blend of corn, rye, barley and limestone water. Barreled in charred new American oak, charcoal filtered, rested and mellowed in roasted small batch coffee beans …”  It carries no age statement, and as such, it is at least four years old. The can also states it is produced and bottled by Stillhouse Spirits Co., USA, which tells me that the whiskey inside is sourced. Otherwise, it would say “distilled.” It is “bottled” at 80°. 


Speaking of proof, the proof is in the pudding, and as this is a unique whiskey, it allows me to really open my mind and #DrinkCurious. 


Black Bourbon comes in two packages: a 375ml with a suggested price of $19.99 or, for $10 more, you can get a 750ml.

In the glass, the appearance was an appealing amber. Swirling it created a medium rim with medium-to-thick legs that slowly crawled back to the pool. 


At my chin, aromas of corn and coffee permeated my nostrils. Lifting the glass to lip level brought a very subtle caramel. Letting it hover just under my nostrils returned more coffee. Inhaling through my lips yielded a candy quality. 


The mouthfeel was extremely thin, and for the most part, was smooth. That smoothness can be credited to the charcoal filtering process. 


The first sip brought nothing but coffee flavor. Being one of the six Americans who doesn’t drink coffee, it was a little on the strong side. However, I never judge on the first sip. A second toned down the harshness and becomes much smoother. Just like on the nose, there was very subtle caramel, but it is mostly overwhelmed by the coffee. Underneath it all is corn sweetness. Subsequent tastes yielded nothing but coffee and corn. 


The finish was soft but kept repeating coffee. I picked up no other notes. It did nothing at all in my throat, everything was in the mouth. 


Next was where things got interesting. The package is designed to be placed in a pocket while camping or some other activity. As such, you likely aren’t packing a Glencairn glass, and you’d drink it straight from the can. Well, I wouldn’t, but that’s what the design is. In an even greater attempt to #DrinkCurious, I did exactly that.

The spout, at least on the 375ml can, is fairly small. I was unable to get much volume in my mouth. The coffee flavor was there, but so was the metal from the can. That metal taste went all the way into my teeth (if that makes any sense). Subsequent sips didn’t change that much, although it did mellow the metal out. 


I figured at this point, I’d return to the glass, and even though it is 80°, I’d try water to see if that did anything. After all, this is a #DrinkCurious moment. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you know I use an eyedropper to add two drops of water. 


The result was that the coffee got stronger on the nose, so much so that I didn’t need it anywhere near my face to sense it. The mouthfeel built body and became creamier, but the coffee then turned almost stale and sour. I tried several times to pick up a finish, but it just dissipated quickly. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I’m going to be very frank. I’m a whiskey aficionado. I lead whiskey appreciation and tasting events. Drinking out of a can isn’t my thing and I teach heavily on the importance of the right glassware to enjoy whiskey.  I appreciate finished whiskeys, I love finished whiskeys, but I don’t drink coffee. Even if I liked coffee, finishing a whiskey should enhance the flavor, not make the flavor. This is like drinking a cup of coffee that has the secondary benefit of giving you a buzz. I really kept an open mind and I really wanted to like this, but my recommendation is a Bust.