Thursday, August 6, 2020

Woodford Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

If you're new or relatively new to American Rye, you might be trying to get past the spiciness this category of whiskey has to offer. Similarly to getting used to peat in Scotch, rye's spiciness is something most people have to acclimate to fully appreciate.  Thankfully, many distilleries offer barely legal Ryes, meaning, they have the minimum or close to the minimum 51% requirement of rye content in the mash.

Many of the legacy distillers hover in this area because the idea is to have a product enjoy mass appeal. Woodford Reserve is no different. They're not targeting drinkers who want 95% or 100% rye content because most casual whiskey drinkers wouldn't become repeat consumers.

"Woodford Reserve Rye uses a pre-prohibition style ratio of 53% rye in its mash bill to pay homage to history’s original rye whiskeys, making spice and tobacco the dominant note among a sea of fruit, floral, and sweet aromatics, which yields a nice sweetness and overall balance. Our rye whiskey can deliver complex flavors – neat, on ice, or in a cocktail. A balanced rye makes a more balanced cocktail." - Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve's Straight Rye has a mash of 53% rye as stated above, however, the remainder is also important.  33% of that is corn, meant to sweeten the pot, and the last 14% is malted barley, meant to round things out and, of course, to aid in the fermentation process. It carries no age statement, but because of that, we know that it is at least four years old. Woodford Reserve uses new, #4-charred oak barrels for a majority of its products. Woodford does utilize climate-controlled warehouses where it tries to make the most out of cold winters and hot, humid summers. And, because it is straight, we know there is nothing added but water to proof it down to 90.4°.  Retail is about $34.99.

How does its Straight Rye taste?  It is time to #DrinkCurious, but first, I want to thank Brown-Forman, the owner of Woodford Reserve, for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presents as a deep chestnut color. It left a medium-thick rim and generated watery legs that quickly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Despite being only 53% rye, rye spice was the first thing that hit my nostrils. It was joined by toasted oak, which was unexpected considering the heavy char level. As I continued to explore, I unearthed apple, honey, candied red fruits, and pecan.  When I inhaled through my lips, the pecan continued and was married to tobacco leaf.

Palate:  Things started off with a thin and airy mouthfeel. Generally speaking, American Rye starts off spicy. Well, this one didn't - it started off with sweet honey. The honey was then mingled with black peppercorn and rye spice. Come mid-palate, brown sugar and heavy mint dominated. Then, on the back, vanilla bean and pear completed the trip.  It was strange to have the flavors go sweet to spicy, sweet to spicy.

Finish:  While there wasn't a whole lot going on, that was offset by how long it lasted. Sweet vanilla, almond, and dry oak continued the uniqueness of the sweet to spicy cycle. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Woodford Reserve Straight Rye is a simple but interesting pour. There is nothing overly complicated about it, but weirdly unpretentious as it was, there was also nothing lacking. This is an easy sipper, it is very affordable, and not even challenging to obtain.  All of that is the recipe for a Bottle rating, and I believe this is one you'll enjoy.  Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, August 3, 2020

Tumblin' Dice Straight Bourbon Heavy Rye Mashbill Review & Tasting Notes

As a reviewer, one of the things I really appreciate is transparency. Actually, as a consumer, I appreciate it even more. So when a brand goes out of its way to not play games or hide behind a cute backstory, I give them props.

One such brand is Proof and Wood Ventures, a company that brands itself as Purveyors and Blenders of American and Global Spirits. Founded by Dave Schmier, it takes what it considers only the best barrels and tries to improve upon them. That's a heck of a task that several folks have attempted, and few with much success.

Today's review is Tumblin' Dice Straight Bourbon Whiskey Heavy Rye Mashbill. If you think that's one heck of a name, I'm guilty of shortening it. Before that big name, it says, "Deadwood Presents." Tumblin' Dice is sourced from MGP of Indiana. It is made from a seriously high rye mashbill. I'm talking 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley.  It carries a four-year age statement, and this one weighs in at 100°.  MGP doesn't have a standard char level for its barrels, but, because this is Bourbon, we do know new, charred oak was used.  Retail of Tumblin' Dice is about $40.00.

All of this, short of the price, is on the label. That's disclosure!

Before I go any further, it is time for my own disclosure. Proof and Wood sent me a sample of Tumblin' Dice in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Now it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Tumblin' Dice appeared burnt umber in color. I saw a thicker rim that generated even thicker legs to slowly drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of orange peel and stone fruits started things off. Underneath those were cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel.  Finally, I got a whiff of milk chocolate.  When I brought the air through my open mouth, vanilla and oak rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  A warming, oily, medium-bodied mouthfeel presented caramel, plum, and citrus flavors on the front of my palate. As it moved along, dark chocolate, nutmeg, and a hefty cinnamon punch took over. That, in turn, led to charred oak, creamy vanilla, and rye spice on the back.  

Finish:  The cinnamon from mid-palate continued into the very long finish. That was married with toasted oak, cocoa, and at the end, plum.  

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If I'm going to be honest, and that's what you expect of me (and I expect of me), this is a damned good four-year Bourbon. The nose, palate, and even the finish are complex enough to keep things interesting. I loved the plum bomb at the end. As varied as things were, they all seemed to compliment each other. If you tried to describe Christmas in a bottle, this would be it. Think of grandma's fruitcake. Her good recipe, not the garbage that everyone regifts for decades.

Now let's look at the two Andy Jacksons it'll take to get a bottle. I wouldn't blink twice handing that over. As me for an Alexander Hamilton on top of it and I'd not even flinch. If you see this, buy it. You won't be disappointed.  I shouldn't even have to say this, but it earns a Bottle rating from me.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Daviess County Bourbon Finished in French Oak Casks Review & Tasting Notes

When Lux Row Distillers released Daviess County Kentucky Straight Bourbon, they had three separate expressions:  the standard Kentucky Straight Bourbon, that Bourbon finished in Cabernet Sauvignon casks, and the straight Bourbon finished in French Oak casks.  If you want to know the history behind the label and the name, I'll invite you to read my review on the original Kentucky Straight Bourbon.  To give you a preview, that expression earned a very easy Bottle rating. 

Today I'm reviewing the French Oak Cask release.  In a nutshell, this is the same as the original expression that's then been finished for six months in French Oak. It starts with a mash of two Bourbons - one that is traditional (meaning rye is the second largest ingredient) and one that is wheated (meaning wheat is substituted for rye). Therefore the grains used are corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley.  But, as this is a blend, you really don't want to consider it a four-grain because that's not how it was originally distilled. Lux Row is sourcing these Bourbons, most likely from Heaven Hill. Since it carries no age statement, it must be at least four years old. Daviess County French Oak is bottled at 96° and retails about $44.99.

The important thing, however, is how does this bourbon taste? To answer that, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appeared as a deep bronze.  It left a fat rim on the wall, which generated thick, fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. However, it also abandoned fat droplets that never really moved.

Nose:  Before I could even bring the glass to my face, it was difficult to not smell caramel. When I sniffed the glass, it seemed to be a caramel bomb. The caramel was joined by oak. As I continued to explore, aromas of honey and raisins joined the parade.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was as if I took a bite of honeycomb and a shot of vanilla. 

Palate:  At the first sip, it had a thin and oily mouthfeel. But, it gained weight during subsequent ones. The dry tannins made a big impression.  That caramel bomb from the nosing also hit me on the palate. Behind the caramel was dusted cinnamon and vanilla.  On the back, things got weird. It was a combination of both sweet and dry oak. 

Finish:  With 96°, you'd think that warmth would be impactful, and you'd be right in this case. There was no burn per se, but this Bourbon definitely let you know it was there. The finish was long and flavorful, with dry oak, dark chocolate, white pepper, and rye spice. The other interesting aspect was how creamy it remained in my mouth and throat. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Like the original expression, the French Oak was unusual, and I love unique whiskeys. This was so different from the original, yet didn't take away from its character. I could still identify what I'm assuming is Heaven Hill Bourbon. The French Oak adds further character. When you take into account the affordability aspect, this one is like the original - another easy Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It