Thursday, September 30, 2021

The 2021 #30DaysofBourbon Challenge Recap

The #30DaysofBourbon Challenge has come to an end. It was an amazing year, the biggest to date, and I’m so thrilled so many of you took part!


As promised, a donation was made to the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association (  One day CRPS will be a memory. But, for the people who battle this daily, it is reality. My amazing wife is one of those people, which is why this organization is so important to me.



And, now, the lineup, along with the calendar…



And, that concludes another year! Until next September when we’ll do it for Year 8!!!!


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.




Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Bomberger's Declaration 2020 Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Back in 1789, Elijah Craig allegedly invented Bourbon. But, before that, in 1753 Pennsylvania, Mennonite brothers John and Michael Shenk founded a distillery on Snitzel Creek near what is present-day Schaefferstown. The Shenks grew corn and rye, mashed and distilled it for what was then "mass" consumption. It remained family-owned until 1860, when Abraham Bomberger purchased it. Theoretically, it remained in the family, as Bomberger was related to the Shenks. However, he did change the name to Abraham Bomberger & Sons. Then, when Abraham passed away, the distillery was renamed H.H. Bomberger.  

Then Prohibition came. The run of the longest continuously-run distillery in American history came to a screeching halt. When Prohibition was (thankfully) repealed, brother Horst had passed away and the distillery was sold to Pennco Distillers. Then, in 1978, the distillery was sold to the Michter Company.

Most of us are familiar with the name Michter's, and they've resurrected both the Shenk and Bomberger brands. Shenk's Homestead is an American whiskey, Bomberger's Declaration is a Bourbon. Both are limited-edition annual releases. Today I'm reviewing the 2020 vintage of Bomberger's Declaration.

"The 2020 release of Bomberger's is a flavorful Kentucky Straight Bourbon with a distinctively smooth character that defies its 108 proof strength. For the aging of this release, Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson chose barrels made of special wood that has been naturally air-dried for over 3 years. While some Chinquapin (Quercus muehlenbergii) oak barrels were used in the 2019 Release of Bomberger's, this year our production team opted to increase the proportion of the Bourbon that spent time in the Chinquapin oak. This special cooperage elevates the unique attributes of this wonderful Kentucky Straight Bourbon." - Michter's

If you have no idea what Chinquapin is, don't fret. Neither did I. As it turns out, that's a subspecies of American white oak. 

Bomberger's Declaration carries no age statement, and Michter's usually holds mashbills close to its vest. There were 1759 bottles released, with each one priced in the neighborhood of $90.00 which, considering all things, is probably at the low end of retail these days. I was gifted a bottle from a friend, and the batch number is 20G1523.

I will say that I've tried on a handful of occasions to procure a bottle of Bomberger's, and the closest I've ever come was a bottle of Shenk's Homestead (which I won't complain about). As such, you can imagine how interested I was to #DrinkCurious and discover if my desire was justified.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Bomberger's Declaration was the color of deep mahogany. The rim it formed was husky, and that produced fat, slow legs that crawled back to the pool of whiskey.

Nose:  Interestingly enough, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow informed me that, while across the room, she could smell the aroma. I found a blast of black cherry, cinnamon, honey, and toasted oak. When I sucked the air into my mouth, it was like black cherry ice cream.

Palate:  I encountered an oily, warm mouthfeel. There was no burning sensation, but it did wake my tongue and hard palate. Speaking of a palate, the front featured cherry, vanilla, and orange marmalade. As it shifted to the middle, I tasted walnut, pecan praline, and maple syrup.  The back offered dark chocolate, clove, and tobacco leaf.

Finish:  The taste of plum, cherry, dark chocolate, tobacco, and clove were long-lasting on my throat. It eventually faded, but it was in no rush.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  First of all, no one would ever guess this was 108°. It drank at least 10 points less. I relished the fruity flavors. I savored the milder spice notes. I have no clue if that's due to the Chinquapin oak because I've never (to my knowledge) tasted whiskey aged in it before. But, the end result is that I simply loved this Bourbon. Would I spend $90.00 on it? Sure. Would I pay double that? No. But, if you can find this one between $90.00 and, say, $130.00 or so, my recommendation would be to jump at the chance. I don't need to say this, but Bomberger's Declaration 2020 vintage bodyslams the Bottle rating. Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Daviess County Double Barrel Ducks Unlimited Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


About a year and a half ago, the world was introduced to Daviess County Bourbon. It was a defunct brand revived by Lux Row Distillers. Daviess County Distilling was one of the original Kentucky distilleries. 

The story of Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, for whom the brand is named, is rather colorful. He became a lawyer in 1795 and appeared in court as someone you'd think of from the movie Deliverance. He got involved in a duel in 1799 and wound up becoming a fugitive. And, yet, he was also the first lawyer west of the Appalachian Mountains to litigate a case before the US Supreme Court.

Daveiss then became a US District Attorney based in Kentucky. He wound up getting a burr (pun intended) under his saddle regarding Aaron Burr. He tried many times to prosecute Burr for treason but was never successful.

In 1811, Daveiss volunteered to serve in the Indiana militia, where he was placed in charge of the entire Indiana calvary as well as two companies of dragoons. He led them into battle at Tippecanoe, where he died from his injuries.

Fast-forward to modern times, and the Daviess County Bourbon line was a family of three:  the Original expression, the French Oak, and the Cabernet Sauvignon. That is, until now. That's because there's a whole new, limited-release called Double Barrel Ducks Unlimited Edition.

What makes this one different?  It is the original expression, which is a blend of a wheated Bourbon and traditional Bourbon, then aged four years. The exact mashbills are undisclosed, but I suspect they're sourced from Heaven Hill. Once dumped, it was then finished in Missouri white oak barrels, which were subjected to a #2 char level and toasted heads. 

"The double-barrel finishing process that goes into Daviess County Double Barrel Bourbon is a perfect nod to our Ducks Unlimited partnership and brings a unique flavor profile to our latest Daviess County offering. Expect a nose that includes crips, toasted-oak notes, caramel and vanilla; sweet caramel, honey and toasted marshmallow flavors on the palate, and a finish of caramelized sugar and lingering dark chocolate compliments of the toasted head finish." - John Rempe, Master Distiller

Packaged at 96°, you can expect to pay about $49.99 for a 750ml bottle. As a comparison, the Original expression was $39.99 and the two prior-finished were $44.99. As such, the $49.99 isn't out of line, and presumably, a portion of the purchase goes to Ducks Unlimited, a wonderful organization.

Without further ado, I'd like to thank Lux Row Distillers for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and see what's new here...

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Double Barrel appeared as a definitive orange amber. A thick rim took shape that collapsed under its weight into a slow curtain drop.

Nose:  I found the aroma to be strong on dark stone fruit, along with nuts and toasted oak. When I pulled the air into my mouth, that stone fruit changed to cherry.

Palate:  Plum and cherry were joined by caramel and dark chocolate on the front. The liquid filled my mouth and coated everywhere with its medium body. At the middle, the sweetness became spicy with cocoa and cinnamon. Those were then eclipsed by toasted marshmallows. The back offered charred oak, clove, and sweet tobacco.

Finish:  The finish on the French Oak expression was long and it wasn't even in the same race as the Double Barrel. Flavors of dark chocolate, caramel, roasted coffee, cinnamon, tobacco, and dry oak remained in my mouth and throat. The caramel came back for an encore. Despite the 96°, my hard palate tingled just a bit.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I thought the original was good, I enjoyed the French Oak, and I loved the Cabernet Sauvignon. The finish on the Double Oak was great, the palate was sweet and spicy in just the right combination. If you asked me which was my favorite expression, it would be a tough call between the Double Barrel and the Cabernet Sauvignon, with me leaning more toward the latter. Regardless, the $5.00 difference in price is not a deal-breaker, especially since I (again) suspect Ducks Unlimited would get a cut. If you see it, buy a Bottle. I don't believe you'll be disappointed in the least. Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Charleston Distilling Vesey's Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Getting introduced to new distilleries is intoxicating.  Stepping into the unknown is like one, giant blind tasting. You don't know what to expect, except perhaps the style of whiskey offered. But, there's also the learning about what the distillery is all about, what its goals are, and how it works to achieve them.

One of the ways I learn about new distilleries is via friends who are curious what my opinion is of something they come across. You can imagine how pleased I was to receive a sample bottle of this previously-unknown elixir. What I'm talking about is Charleston Distilling Co. out of Johnstown Island, South Carolina. Founded December 31, 2013, by Stephen Heilman, his philosophy was to do something different. It was to "master the old practice, but refine and redefine."

Charleson Distilling utilizes two German copper stills and gets all of his grains from nearby Weather's Farm. Nothing is outsourced - this is a true grain-to-glass distillery. The warehouse is naturally-acclimated.

I'm drinking Vesey's Straight Bourbon from barrel 10-13.  It begins as a mash of 70% corn, 20% winter wheat, and 10% rye.  You'll notice there's no malted barley in that mix. Fermentation takes between three and five days, and then once distilled, it is aged four years in an undisclosed cooperage. Once dumped, it is diluted to 94°. You can expect to pay about $48.99 for a 750ml.

Let's #DrinkCurious and learn what this Bourbon is all about, shall we?

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Vesey's presents as a deep mahogany color. This made me curious if smaller cooperage was used for aging. It made a thin rim but huge, fat, watery legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This Bourbon was fragrant from the start. Cherry and plum filled the air before the glass got anywhere near my face. It was joined by toffee and cedar. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, the toffee continued.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was soft and airy. On the front, I tasted dark coffee and barrel char. The middle offered flavors of caramel and cedar. The back was big oak, leather, and cinnamon spice.

Finish: A long, spicy finish involved black pepper, nutmeg, oak, leather, and cocoa powder.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I honestly have no idea what size barrels were used but from my experience, it seems like they had to be less than 53-gallons. While the nose wasn't oaky, the palate and finish were. I do commend Heilman for going with rye over barley for the final ingredient in the mash. The wheat also helped to round out some of the strong oak presence. The proof on Vesey's seems correct, and $49.00 is relatively average for craft, especially true craft whiskey. But, I'm stuck somewhere between Bar and Bottle on my rating, and when that happens, I err on the side of caution. As such, it takes a Bar, and I'll recommend trying this one first before making a purchase. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Boulder Spirits Straight Bourbon Sherry Cask Review & Tasting Notes


Located in Boulder, Colorado just a mere 5,430 feet above sea level is a distillery called Vapor Spirits, which is also known as Boulder Spirits.  I've been reviewing the rather unique whiskeys from this distillery for the last two years. It definitely does not do "me-too" products. Its distiller, Alastair Brogan, is a Scotsman who believes in doing American whiskey the Scottish way, and the Scottish way involves, among other things, a lot of malted barley. Boulder Spirits uses a 1300-gallon Forsyth copper pot still to distill its whiskeys. On a side note, that's currently the largest pot still in Colorado. 

Alastair is an entertaining gentleman. When you talk to him, he's mesmerizing. If you want to read about him, I gave a somewhat detailed history in a previous review. I was shocked as to what he's done and where he's been. 

"Barley, yeast, water, oak, and the pursuit of happiness. These make up the foundation of what we here at Boulder Spirits stand on. We’re a small Colorado whiskey company with big dreams, bigger goals, and the biggest pot still in the state. We’re here to make our best versions of American Single Malt Whiskeys, Bourbons, and Gins that our team can." - Boulder Spirits

Today I'm sipping on his Straight Bourbon Sherry Cask. The name doesn't mean this was aged in former sherry casks. That would prevent it from being Bourbon. Instead, it was aged in #3-char new, 53-gallon American oak barrels. But, before we can talk about aging, we have to talk about what's being aged. It starts with a mash of 51% corn, 44% malted barley, and 5% rye. 

That concoction is then aged for three years. Once that's happened, it is transferred into ex-sherry casks for another six months. Boulder Spirits doesn't specify what kind of sherry is used, but I suspect it is Oloroso (and I'll explain why in the tasting notes). Boulder Spirits has a recommended price of $55.00 for a 750ml bottle, and it is available in Colorado and a handful but growing number of states. 

I'd like to thank Boulder Spirits for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presents as a red-tinted amber. A medium-thick rim was created, and that released husky, slow legs that fell back into the pool.

Nose:  There's no goofing around here. This was finished in sherry casks and sniffing this is like I shoved my head in the barrel. Honey, plum, apricot, and raisin had me rolling my eyes back in my head. Aromas of ginger and caramel snuck in behind. When I took the air into my mouth, cinnamon raisin bread was all I could think of.

Palate:  Full-bodied with a rich, silky mouthfeel, the Bourbon offered honey, milk chocolate, and char on the front of my palate. The middle tasted of prune, raisin, and dried cherry. The back was more raisin and prune, which was joined by ginger and tobacco leaf.

Finish:  Here's why I think the cask was Oloroso sherry:  it was dry. Very dry. Prune, ginger, tobacco leaf, and charred oak rounded things out, and the finish was long and lingering, leaving a dry but fruity sweetness behind.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Remember how I started off saying Boulder Spirits makes unique whiskeys? The Bourbon Sherry Cask continued that tradition. At times, I felt as if I was eating fruitcake. Not the garbage that gets passed around year after year as a joke at Christmastime, but the good, gooey stuff that folks fight over. If you like sherry-bomb Scotches, you absolutely need to try this Bourbon. If you don't know what a sherry-bomb is, you need to try this Bourbon. The $55.00 investment will bring absolutely no buyer's remorse, and this takes a Bottle rating like a boss. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Barrell Bourbon Gray Label Review & Tasting Notes

It is almost Autumn. That means it must be limited-edition American whiskey season. It is September, that's Bourbon Heritage Month. It is time for the rush. You've got whiskey money burning a hole in your pocket, you've been waiting all year, what do you spend it on?

Barrell Craft Spirits throws down its gauntlet with Gray Label Bourbon. Gray Label? What's that mean? I sat down and thought about it, and about the best I can come up with is it's old. It starts with a blend of three very old straight Bourbons: one from Kentucky (likely Jim Beam), one from Tennessee (George Dickel), and one from Indiana (MGP). The youngest is 15-years, hence the age statement.

Barrell calls Gray Label its "Ultra-Premium Limited Edition" Bourbon. 

"The barrels harvested for this limited release were selected for their refined properties and extraordinary flavor profile. This complex 15-year old Bourbon was blended and bottled at peak maturity so you can experience its true flavor. The perfect union of grain and barrel, with an opulent, oak forward nose and a honey-Brulee palate that reveals the lushness of the grain." - Barrell Craft Spirits

Bottled at 100.4°, you can expect to pay a premium for this ultra-premium Bourbon. I'll get to that later. But, first, I'd like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample of its Gray Label in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Gray Label was deep caramel in color. It formed a thin rim that created thinner legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose: Thick, rich caramel started things off. It was soon joined by cinnamon, tobacco, citrus, plum, old smoky oak, and that telltale Dickel mineral quality. Trying to identify something as I drew the air into my mouth was challenging. After many attempts, it struck me I was tasting pineapple.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was certainly different. It was both airy and oily. I don't know how to describe it further. It was a lighter body than I expected. Each time I sipped, I expected that airiness to vanish, but it stuck around. On the front of my palate, I discovered berries, Cherry Coke, and milk chocolate. The middle featured peanuts (that's the Jim Beam component), caramel, and raw honey. At the back, it was pure spice with oak, tobacco, allspice, and nutmeg. 

Finish: Shockingly lacking was any strong spiciness you'd expect from an older Bourbon. Instead, there was cocoa powder, smoked oak, tobacco, nuts, pineapple, and strawberry. Yes, it ended sweet and fruity. Overall, it was long-lasting.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found Barrell Gray Label to complex from the nose to the palate, and the palate to the finish. The mouthfeel was crazy. The finish was impressive. It was a delicious pour, truly. I know you're thinking, there's a "but" coming... and you'd be correct. Remember I said that this with a premium pricetag? I have a rough time spending $250.00 on an American whiskey, and that's what you'll have to pay if you can find it. Barrell suggests this is available in select markets. I don't have a choice other than a Bar rating. You'll want to drink this, it is just hard on the wallet.

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Elijah Craig Barrel Select Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Elijah Craig is a name in Bourbon that carries a long, storied tradition.  First of all, he is credited with being the Father of Bourbon.  At least that's how the legend goes.  The Reverand Elijah Craig was a Baptist minister who was involved in a variety of business enterprises, including distilling. However, truth be told, there is no evidence beyond nostalgia that suggests Elijah Craig actually invented Bourbon. But, he was certainly an early force in the art.

Elijah Craig the brand hit shelves in about 1986.  It started off as a 12-year Bourbon, which was something new for Heaven Hill.  Their goal was to get beyond the less-than-positive opinion of its whiskeys and turn the company around. It then moved into an 18-year, and from there, older expressions.

Laying down my cards on the table, I'm admittedly an Elijah Craig fanboy. I buy Barrel Proofs and Single Barrel store picks as I come across them.  I have more than I probably should.  I've known about the Elijah Craig grenades, which is really called Barrel Select, for a few years.  But, I've never tried a bottle, that is, until a very recent trip to Kentucky.  I had two bottles on my list that I wanted to purchase when I took my trip, this being one of them.

Barrel Select is not Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but it is entry proof (meaning, it is the same proof as what goes into the barrel before any aging occurs).  It carries no age statement, although it is assumed to be between eight and nine years, and is the typical mash of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley.  It only comes in 200ml bottles that are shaped like a barrel, but fit in the hand like a grenade, hence, the nickname.  It is bottled at 125° and costs about $25.00. The only place to buy them is from the Heaven Hill gift shop. You're only allowed one per person per visit.

Will Barrel Select live up to the Elijah Craig reputation? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Barrel Select appears as a deep, dark amber. It left a very thin rim on the wall that created fat, wavy legs.  Those legs certainly took their time crawling back to the pool.

Nose:  I didn't even have to bring the glass near me to start picking up the aroma of caramel. Once I brought it to my face, it was that caramel and a small amount of mint. Underneath the mint was cinnamon. When I held the rim just under my nose, aromas of cherry and oak filled my nostrils.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was warm vanilla with cinnamon.

Palate:  The initial sip was thick and coating. It was also packed a wallop of a punch. I've been drinking Elijah Craig Barrel Proof since I've really been into Bourbon, and until you get into the super-heavy proofs, I've not felt this much of a kick as what Barrel Select delivered.  But, once I got past that punch, it was a mouthful of berries at the front.  At mid-palate, it became like thick caramel with cinnamon. On the back, it was clove and oak.

Finish:  And, that clove and oak held on for the finish, which was quick and dropped off without warning. My initial feeling was a disappointment, as Elijah Craig never delivered me that, not even in its rather mellow 18-year expression. Just before I went to take another sip, that clove and oak raced back for another round, sticking around only a little bit longer, almost like a tease.  I did notice, however, that my lips were tingling. And, I noticed cherry that was left behind on my palate.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I already admitted I'm an Elijah Craig fanboy. While the finish initially left me disappointed, when it came back again, I found that interesting. When the oak and clove fell off the second time and left the cherry behind, it turned my frown upside down. 

When you consider the price of $25.00, it seems affordable, until, of course, you do the math and realize it is the equivalent of an $87.50 750ml bottle. That becomes expensive for what it is. However (and this may be the fanboy providing justification), it is $25.00 for a very cool experience that would probably last you four pours. And, that's cheaper than going to a bar, in which case you wouldn't find Barrel Select anyway.  As such, my recommendation is to buy the one Bottle you're allowed to the next time you're at the distillery.  Cheers!

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

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Jim Beam Devil's Cut Review & Tasting Notes

Let's get real.  You've seen the commercials. You may have even chuckled at them. If not at the commercials, then the schtick - squeezing the Bourbon from the wood after the barrel has been emptied. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about Jim Beam Devil's Cut. If you've never seen the commercial narrated by Mila Kunis, you can view it here

But, this is a review of the whiskey, not the commercial. I've honestly been curious about Devil's Cut for several years, but I've also not wanted to pay money to taste something that is, well, schticky. But, when I saw a shooter on the shelf, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

Devil's Cut is basically taking Jim Beam Extra-Aged (which I assume is Black Label), draining it, and then recovering the whiskey that was soaked up in the wood. The two are then blended together, then cut at 90°.  To get there, Beam started off with a mash of 75% corn, 12% rye, and 13% malted barley. The distillate was placed in new, #4 charred oak barrels at 125° and aged approximately six years (but carries no age statement). A 750ml bottle will run about $18.99.

All background aside, what really matters is if this process works, and the only way to know that for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass Devil's Cut presented as caramel in color, but that caramel was lighter than you'd assume. I don't know why, but I expected it to be much darker.  It generated a medium-thick rim on the wall which led to fat, slow legs.

Nose:  Predictably, there was a blast of wood to my nostrils. It was a mixture of wet oak and sawdust. I would not describe that as overly pleasant despite the fact I love the smell of wood. Once I was able to get past that, I found caramel, molasses, and that typical Beam peanutty goodness. Finally, the aroma of orange peel rounded things out.  When I inhaled through my lips, oak and corn rolled across my palate.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick and coating. For whatever reason, that was unexpected. The oak that hit the front was not. It was joined by caramel, mint, and maple syrup, which seemed appropriate considering the texture. At mid-palate, I found Beam peanuts, oiled leather, and sweet cherry. Then, on the back, flavors of brown sugar, dry oak, and cocoa powder.

Finish:  A very long-lasting finish started with heavy, dry oak and cinnamon. Then, the freight train of black pepper rumbled past that seemed unending.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I like Plain Jane Jim Beam. There are many expressions from the distillery that I love. Like it or leave it, Devil's Cut is still a shtick Bourbon. The question becomes, does it work? I wasn't turned off by Devil's Cut, but I also couldn't picture myself buying a pour at a bar, let alone picking up a bottle. It was interesting, it might make for a good mixer, but my goal is never to buy something to be a mixer. I also don't think it is fair to rate this one a Bust, because despite what I just said, it wasn't bad. And, that's why the Bar rating exists.  Try this one for yourself before committing to a bottle. Cheers!

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

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Knob Creek Quarter Oak Review & Tasting Notes

I love it when distillers get curious and want to do something different. It isn't as if there isn't enough choice in the Wonderful World of Whiskey, but I enjoy the whole experimentation aspect. I want to see (and taste) what outside-the-box ideas they can come up with.

When Knob Creek announced they were going to release a small barrel Bourbon, it piqued my curiosity. It involved taking their standard Knob Creek Bourbon, made from a mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley, but instead of aging it in a standard 53-gallon barrel, it used what's called a quarter cask, which is only 13 gallons, and let it rest for four years. The smaller barrel gives a greater contact surface area between whiskey and wood. It is one way to accelerate the aging process.

Instead of leaving it at that, Knob Creek then took that quarter cask and blended it with their standard Bourbon aged in a traditional barrel.  The end result is called Knob Creek Quarter Oak.  

Bottled at 100°, Quarter Oak carries no age statement. Suggested retail is $49.99 for a 750ml and this is a limited edition offering. But, does limited edition mean it is worth chasing down?  I'll be honest - while I've enjoyed Knob Creek's limited editions in the past, I've found them overpriced for what they are. That hit a crescendo with the 25th Anniversary Release, which was essentially nothing more than a good store pick of Knob Creek 120 at three times the price. 

While the bottle is a media sample, it was passed along by a fellow reviewer and I did not get it directly from Knob Creek. Time to #DrinkCurious and find out if it is anything special...

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Quarter Oak appeared as a dull, golden amber. It left a thin rim that created fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  The first thing to hit my nostrils was rose perfume. It was a bit overwhelming. However, once I got past that, I found a blend of dried fruit and caramel. Underneath that, leather was evident. When I inhaled through my mouth, apple and pear caressed my palate.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating. Thick, sweet vanilla and cream greeted the front of my palate. That led to dry oak and leather at my mid-palate. Then, on the back, it became black pepper and barrel char. 

Finish:  I found it long and building. It started with black pepper and finished with very dry oak.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I am a big fan of Knob Creek 120.  I've said a few times that it is one of the most underrated Bourbons around. While it is a single-barrel Bourbon, I use it as a bellwether for other Knob Creek releases. I found Quarter Oak to be very atypical of what I've found in Knob Creek 120s, especially concerning the sweetness level at the front, and it was enjoyable. While this is slightly more expensive than Knob Creek 120 and is only 100°, it isn't obnoxiously priced like the 25th Anniversary or the 2001 Series. In all, Knob Creek Quarter Oak comes in as a net positive and earns my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers!

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

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Barrell Bourbon Batch 030 Review & Tasting Notes


I've reviewed several whiskeys from Barrell Craft Spirits. Most of them have been Bottle ratings. A handful have been Bar and there was even a Bust.  And, good or bad, whenever Barrell tells me it is sending a sample my way, I get excited because, well, they're usually tasty.

The most recent one to come my way is Bourbon Batch #030.  This one is absolutely different because it contains a component I've not yet seen in the prior releases:  Bourbon from a Wyoming distillery.

One of the fun things about Barrell is they're very transparent about some things, and other tidbits they give you just enough information to almost figure it out on your own. For example, here's the make-up of Batch #030:

  • 5-year Indiana Bourbon
  • 10-year Tennesse Bourbon
  • 6-, 9-, 11-, and 15-year Bourbons from Kentucky and Wyoming

Obviously, Barrell isn't providing the sources of those whiskeys, but some simple deductions will give away much of the information.  The Indiana content is MGP. I know this because I've been reviewing Barrell offerings for a few years and the ages make it obvious. Also, I'm not aware of any other Indiana-based distilleries that can provide the volume required. The same is true with the Tennessee portion: George Dickel. What's more challenging are the last two components.

I suspect the Kentucky component is Jim Beam because that's been used in a previous batch. A portion of the Kentucky Bourbons used are described as nutty.  It doesn't mean that it is Beam, but it is because Beam is known for nutty Bourbons and you don't stop working with a partner unless there's a reason to stop. The Wyoming component requires some additional research. 

Taking into account production volume and founding dates, the only Wyoming distillery that makes sense is Wyoming Whiskey. It is the oldest legal post-Prohibition distillery in the state when it was established in 2009. And, that would certainly take into account the possibility of the 15-year portion.

The detective work is fun, at least it is to me. But I know what matters to everyone is what's in the bottle. Both the Kentucky and Wyoming Bourbons are wheaters (or wheated, meaning the 2nd-largest ingredient is wheat instead of the typical rye). The wheaters mingled together for a month separately from the traditional (which also mingled together), until both were married into a single batch. Batch #030 is packaged at a cask strength of 117.32° and retails right around $90.00. 

I'd like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for the sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and taste if this is a winner.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Batch #030 presented as mahogany in color. It formed a medium ring that yielded legs that raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Sweet aromas wafted to my nostrils. It started with peach and flowers, apple, and, finally, sweet tobacco. The familiar mineral quality of Dickel popped up as well. When I breathed the air into my mouth, coconut gave me a bit of a surprise. 

Palate:  Thin and oily in my mouth, the front started with dark chocolate and orange citrus. As it moved to the middle, I tasted cocoa, coconut, pear, and walnut. The back offered flavors of clove, oak, and English toffee.

Finish:  A medium-length finish featured clove, black pepper, and raw honey. That was Act 1. There was a brief intermission, and then Act 2 began. This time, it was long and lingering, with English toffee, dark chocolate, old leather, and cinnamon.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The finish was just amazing. I love when different (or weird) happens and this was that. The marriage of six barrels from four distilleries was a successful one. Blending is an art form, and this was a masterpiece. Bottle rating all the way, it is well worth the outlay. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

New Riff Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


The Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 is one of the most important consumer protection laws passed by Congress. It was, interestingly enough, passed unanimously.  Back in the day (does that make me sound old?), bad people looking to stretch dollars did bad things to whiskey. They would add things to it. Bad things. Things like tobacco spit, old coffee, and even turpentine, and unsuspecting folks were getting sick and even dying. 

Something needed to be done, otherwise, no one would buy whiskey anymore, at least not with the risks involved. The Act was passed and signed into law by President Grover ClevelandThe Act states that any distilled spirit that carries a Bottled in Bond (or Bonded) label must adhere to strict standards:

  • It must be a complete product of the United States
  • It must be composed of the same type of spirit (whiskey, brandy, gin, etc.)
  • It must be distilled by a single distiller in a single distilling season (January to June or July to December)
  • It must be packaged at exactly 100° (50% ABV)
  • It must be aged at least four years in a government-bonded warehouse (hence, the bonded part of the term)
  • If the spirit is bottled by someone other than the distiller, it must state the name of the distiller
  • It can be filtered, it can use water to be proofed to 100°, but nothing else can be added

For what it is worth, I've been a longtime fan of bonded whiskeys and loved when almost all of them could be found on the bottom shelf of the liquor store. It was overlooked, it was ignored, it was dirt cheap, and it was delicious. Bonded whiskeys caused me to create a #RespectTheBottomShelf campaign.  And then, not so many years ago, folks caught on, and suddenly bonded whiskeys became high-dollar investments.

One distillery that jumped on the Bottled-in-Bond bandwagon was New Riff Distilling. Back in 2014, Ken Lewis, then a liquor store owner, sold his store to his employees and jumped into the distilling business. He started with a mission to do things in a new way.

"To a certain extent, there’s nothing revolutionary about New Riff’s process. We make sour mash whiskey, like all the big/huge distilleries in Kentucky. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. We began, as any distillery should, with water, with a private tap into an ancient aquifer right under our feet. Our distillation equipment is all-copper: wherever the mash or distillate is heated, we want it in contact with nothing but copper, to help our whiskey age for decades to come. Every batch of New Riff whiskey is sour mashed, in accord with the Kentucky Regimen we have vowed to uphold. We allow a slow, natural rise in fermentation temperature over a patient four-day fermentation, collecting flavors from our native microflora all along the way. Perhaps our greatest, yet simplest process is that of patience: at least four years in a full-size 53-gallon barrel for any New Riff whiskey. You’ll find no small-barrel shortcuts—or any other kind of shortcuts—here. New Riff makes whiskey the hard way: every single whiskey takes at least four years in the making." - New Riff Distilling

Every whiskey New Riff makes is Bottled-in-Bond, except for its single barrel program (more on that later). Today I'm reviewing its Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It starts with a mash of 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley. It is non-chill-filtered and naturally colored. You can expect to lay down about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle. This is its own distillate, not sourced from anyone else.

I've told you a lot, and I've not forgotten the need for a review. Before I #DrinkCurious, I'd like to thank New Riff for a sample of this Bourbon that I acquired while doing a barrel pick (again, more on that later).

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Bourbon presented as a golden amber. A medium rim was formed, but the fat droplets it created just stuck to the rim. Eventually, they got too heavy and fell back to the pool.

Nose:  Initially, aromas of candied corn, toffee, butterscotch, and toasted oak hit my nostrils. The butterscotch then dominated everything. As I inhaled the vapor into my mouth, the butterscotch continued and rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  A medium-bodied mouthfeel coated everywhere in my mouth. It wasn't oily, it wasn't creamy, it was just coating. On the front of my palate, I tasted corn and caramel. The middle offered nothing and fell flat on the first sip. On subsequent attempts, I found a hint of vanilla, but it took a lot of concentration. The back offered flavors of oak, clove, and rye spice.

Finish:  Medium-to-long in length, the finish featured berries, which came from nowhere, then transformed to rye spice and oak. It was a bit warming, but not unexpected considering the proof.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I thought most of the Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon was decent. I admittedly wind up discouraged when there's something missing (in this case, the middle of the palate). It makes me spend more time analyzing the whiskey instead of enjoying it for what it is. It isn't a bad Bourbon by any means, but I also can't give it more than a Bar rating. You'll want to try this one first before you lay down the cash for it.

Final Notes: I hinted at the single-barrel program, and what I want to say has everything to do with the rating. Earlier this year, I was involved in a New Riff Bourbon pick.  They're packaged at barrel proof and each barrel I sampled wasn't anything like the profile of the Bonded Bourbon. There wound up being two barrels that seemed like winners and either would have been great. What I'm saying is, New Riff does a great job of distilling from what I've tasted, I just wasn't overly impressed with the Bottled-in-Bond version. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.