Showing posts with label Bardstown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bardstown. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2022

Elijah Craig Straight Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


I am, admittedly, an Elijah Craig fanboy. It is one of the better value Bourbons around, especially when you get into the single barrel program. I was defending the brand when Heaven Hill removed the age statement, and everyone was saying they’d never drink Elijah Craig again (without ever tasting the non-age-stated version).


Every so often, I run into something from Elijah Craig that leaves me less than impressed. One of the most disappointing buys I made was on the 18-year. I spent a few years looking for it, and it was underwhelming, especially considering the price (it was only $99.00 then). I say this to show that even favorite brands release a dud or two now and then.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the background of this brand, Elijah Craig was a Baptist minister, a teacher, and a businessman who many people credit being the inventor of Bourbon by storing whiskey in new, charred oak barrels. There is also debate as to whether those barrels were new or used. I’ve heard versions of the story that talk about his charring the barrels to hide the flavors of whatever the barrel was originally storing. In truth, nobody knows who the inventor was and who used the first new, charred oak barrel – it may very well have been Craig – or not. Regardless, it makes a nice backstory.

 

Heaven Hill released Elijah Craig Straight Rye in October 2019 to much fanfare. It took a bit to make its way to Wisconsin liquor stores. The Rye shares the same barely-legal 51% rye, 35% corn, and 14% malted barley mashbill as Rittenhouse and Pikesville. It carries no age statement and falls in at $35.00, slightly more expensive than Rittenhouse and much less than Pikesville. Similar to the Bourbon, it is packaged at 94°.

 

The Rye has been said by some to be excellent and others to be okay. Despite my love for the Bourbon, I can stay unbiased as this is a different whiskey. Let’s #DrinkCurious and see if the brand has a winner.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Rye was orange amber. A medium rim generated thick, crooked legs that fell back to the pool.

 

Nose: Cinnamon, star fruit, and cherry formed a sweeter aroma joined by toasted oak and black pepper. The familiar Elijah Craig oak flavor introduced itself when I inhaled through my lips.

 

Palate:  A thin, light-bodied texture greeted my tongue. With Rye, you expect there to be spice upfront. Strangely, corn was the first thing I tasted, with vanilla and caramel. At mid-palate, things became spicier, with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. The back featured pimento, rye spice, and black pepper.

 

Finish:  Sweet vanilla and caramel carried through to the end, along with rye spice and cinnamon Red Hots candy. The duration was medium to long, with the Red Hots rounding things out.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Elijah Craig Straight Rye is decent. I have to be honest, for $10.00 less, I believe Rittenhouse is a better value. It is the same mashbill at 100°, and I found it more flavorful. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to buy a bottle of the Elijah Craig version, and that's very hard for me to type. As such, I’m going to give it a Bar 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, May 30, 2022

Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



As I was perusing my local Trader Joe's store, I stumbled upon what I assumed was another house brand of whiskey:  Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon.  It was only $12.99, and while I've had very decent luck with Trader Joe's Scotches, I've not done so well with their American selections. But, again, that low-low price was attractive, and I do have that #RespectTheBottomShelf philosophy. With some added prodding from Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, I took a bottle home.


Come to find out, Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon is not a store brand. It is produced and bottled by Lux Row Distillers. Lux Row does their own distilling, and they've regularly done a marvelous job at sourcing - usually from Heaven Hill (although now that Lux Row is the consumer-facing brand for MGP, that should also change). Well, that brought something else into consideration. I enjoy several of Heaven Hill's dirt-cheap Bourbons (JW Dant, Heaven Hill, Evan Williams, JTS Brown). At this point, I'm pretty excited about what I've got in my hands.


Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon is four years old and bottled at 80°.  That's not generally the target proof for me, but I have found some gems at that level. The question, of course, is, does it make the grade? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious. Here we go...


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Kentucky Best presents as a pale amber. That's not overly surprising considering the low proof. It generated a skinny rim and fat droplets that pretty much stuck to the walls before eventually falling into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Kentucky Best gives the impression of a younger Bourbon. Corn and cinnamon are prevalent. Beneath those two is oak, and underneath that, what can best be described as freshly baked bread. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was sweet cornbread.


Palate:  The watery mouthfeel led to an initial taste of dry roasted almonds, at mid-palate, that transformed into oak. But, on the back, it was very sweet with vanilla and honey.  


Finish:  The palate culminated in a bizarre peppery finish.  The pepper snuck up, then slowly built from mild to intense, and just as it became enjoyable, it completely vanished.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Kentucky Best is a strange animal. It starts off very dry, then moves to sweet, then to spicy. It has some nice flavors, but they seem slightly jumbled, confusing the palate. Then, there was that finish. The whole thing left me wanting.


But, let's get real here. This is a $13.00 Bourbon. Finding gems at this level is spotty, and I believe Kentucky Best would make a good mixer. It doesn't, however, stand well on its own when poured neat. This would be far more interesting at a higher proof point - even 86° could have a significant impact. Despite that low price, this one's taking a Bust 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, May 27, 2022

JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


I'm Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf.  Oh, you may know me as Whiskeyfellow, but before that, I was a fan of that sneered at, overlooked area of the liquor store. Not because I was cheap; instead, there are some real gems there. Generally, I like to keep this stuff a secret because, quite frankly, I'm concerned the distilleries will pick up on it and start ratcheting up the price. An example? Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond. That was an $18.00 whiskey. For the last couple of years, that's been a $100+ whiskey. Or Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond.  It was a $12.00 Bourbon. They ended production, tacked on an extra year, revived it, and now you can pay $50.00 (and it isn't any better).


Here we are, and I'm reviewing another Heaven Hill Distillery product:  JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond. This one is a $15.00 Bourbon; it isn't the easiest to find - not because folks scoop it up like it is allocated, but because it has a more limited distribution. Similar in nature to the original Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond, Heaven Hill doesn't even list JW Dant on its website, likely due to that limited distribution.


It begins with the typical Heaven Hill bourbon mash of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. JW Dant carries no age statement. But, since it is Bottled-in-Bond, we know that it must legally be at least four years old. My suspicion is it is right about that age. And, because it is Bonded, we also know it is 100°, we know it is from one distiller (Heaven Hill) during one distilling season (January to June or July to December) from a single distillery.


Is JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond worth the #RespectTheBottomShelf designation? You know what happens next... it is time to #DrinkCurious and find out.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, JW Dant was the color of caramel. It made a fat rim on the wall; it eventually yielded slow, heavy legs that fell back into the pool.


Nose:  The nose was pretty straightforward with corn, vanilla, and oak, but it was accompanied by banana nut bread. When I drew the vapor into my open mouth, it was a vanilla bomb.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be light-to-medium, but there was an oily quality to it. The front of my palate tasted corn, brown sugar, and caramel. As it worked its way across my tongue, vanilla, nuts, and cinnamon took over the middle. The back started with big oak, clove, and pear hidden beneath those.


Finish:  Medium-long in length, the finish featured black pepper, oak, nuts, marshmallow, and apple.  It was a bit strange for it to go from big spice to sweet. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond is a reasonably simple Bourbon. For the money, there's good value. You get notes you can actually identify because they're not muted, you get a sufficiently complex finish, and while it isn't the best of Heaven Hill's Bottled-in-Bond bottom shelf program, that shouldn't turn you off. Much of what's in that program is lovely. This one earns a Bottle rating from me. 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, April 4, 2022

Thomas S. Moore Extended Finish Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes (2022 Release)

 


At the end of 2020, Barton 1792 Distillery released its first expressions of Thomas S. Moore Bourbons. It featured “extended” cask finished whiskeys, meaning instead of barrel-finishing for weeks or months, Thomas S. Moore Bourbons are finished for years.

 

But wait, what’s finishing mean? When you take a fully-matured whiskey, remove it from the barrel it was aged in, and transfer the contents to another barrel, that additional aging is finishing. That finishing barrel could be brand new, or it could have contained pretty much anything else, including other whiskeys, Tobasco sauce, coffee beans, beer, etc. Just let your mind go wild.

 

In late 2020, Thomas S. Moore’s finishes included Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Port casks. You can read all about them in my review from January 2021. 

 

In 2022, second releases consist of Madiera, Merlot, Sherry, and Cognac casks, which we’ll explore today. Each expression begins with the high-rye recipe, aged between five and six years in new, charred oak barrels.


“This second Thomas S. Moore release really reinforces that the extended aging is quite significant. What we are seeing are complex, fuller textures being developed. Savory flavors and aromas are unquestionably enhanced and continue to develop in the secondary cask in ways that are very different from the primary barrel aging. The result is an elevated, premium collection unlike any other.”Danny Kahn, Master Distiller

 

Each finish is packaged at a different proof, but all are available in 750ml bottles for $69.99 each. Before I get started on the tasting notes and ratings, I thank Barton 1792 for providing me with samples of all four in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews.

 

And now, let’s #DrinkCurious!


 


The Madiera Finish will be the first of the four. This Bourbon was transferred to the Madiera casks, where it mingled between two and four years with the wine-soaked wood. It is packaged at 96.5°.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Madiera finish presented as deep caramel. A medium-to-thick rim released slow, sticky legs that eventually fell back to the pool.

 

Nose: An exciting aroma of cedar, oak, dry tobacco, lemon peel, and raisin started the show, and when I inhaled through my mouth, only the tobacco came through.

 

Palate:  I found the texture both oily and airy. Flavors of plum, lemon zest, and sweet corn were on the front, and as the liquid moved to the middle, I tasted leather, tobacco, and raisin. On the back, the raisin blended with charred oak and green peppercorn.

 

Finish:  The medium finish offered more green peppercorn, joined by leather, dry tobacco, clove, oak, and a touch of lemon zest.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While I liked the Madeira finished Bourbon, something was missing from it that I just can’t put my palate on aside from a lack of cohesiveness. I could have been looking for more nut and caramel flavors representative of the fortified wine. Regardless, for $69.99, I believe this is one to try at a Bar before committing to the investment.


 



Second in line is the Merlot Finish Bourbon, which rested between two and four years in the Merlot wine cask before being diluted to 93.3°.

 

Appearance: The Merlot finished Bourbon was more of an orange amber than I would have anticipated in my Glencairn glass. It formed a medium-thick rim that yielded fast legs.

 

Nose: Thick, rich caramel, vanilla, and heavier black cherry and ripe plum notes lulled me to a daydream. I could be happy just sniffing without ever having to taste it; the nose was heavenly. Raspberry and blackberry caressed my tongue when I pulled the air into my mouth.

 

Palate: The mouthfeel was light and crisp, leading to cherries and plums. The middle featured a single note of caramel, while the back had flavors of dry oak, tobacco, and black pepper.

 

Finish:  My mind drifted off as I was reminiscing about the nose, and when I started to pay attention, black cherry and vanilla brought me back to reality. Black pepper and dry oak offered some pucker power. Medium in length, it blew a kiss of caramel at the end.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I truly enjoyed the Merlot finish, everything from the nosing to the final caramel kiss. I don’t often get lost in thought, but this Bourbon made me fantasize about sweet orchard fruits. The palate wasn’t complex, but what was there was enchanting. I’d rate this one a Bottle without any hesitation.





Next up is the Sherry Finish. What type of Sherry casks were selected is not disclosed. However, I’d suspect it to be Oloroso per my notes below. The finishing period was between one and four years and packaged at 98.7°.

 

Appearance: The lovely chestnut color was eye-catching in my Glencairn glass. A medium rim led to fast, thick legs, which crashed back to the pool.

 

Nose: An aroma comprised of fig, prune, apricot, pecan, almond, and vanilla teased my olfactory sense. As I breathed it into my mouth, the fig continued.

 

Palate: The mouthfeel was soft and creamy. At the front of my palate, I picked out dark chocolate, toffee, and almond, while the middle featured raisin, dried cherry, and plum. The back offered tobacco leaf, dry oak, pecan, and hazelnut.

 

Finish:  A short-to-medium finish left behind flavors of tobacco leaf, dry oak, nuts, chocolate, and raisins.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: For the most part, I savor sherry-bomb whiskeys, especially Scotch. And, the Sherry finish version came darned close to some interior Highland whiskies aged in Sherry casks. Did I enjoy this? Yes. Would I pay $69.99 for it? I’m not convinced. Therefore, I’ll give this one a Bar rating.


 



The final expression is a Cognac finish. Like the Sherry finish, Barton 1792 doesn’t share what kind of Cognac casks were selected; however, it took between two and four years before they were deemed complete and offered at 93.4°.

 

Appearance: This Bourbon appeared as the color of roasted almonds. It is, by far, the lightest brown of the four. A thick rim with slow, jagged tears fell down the wall of my Glencairn glass.

 

Nose: The smells of lime, lemon, and orange zests wafted out, then morphed to cherry, apricot, and raisin. I also experienced floral notes, possibly from the rye content. A blast of apricot crossed my tongue as I drew the air into my mouth.

 

Palate:  A heavy, very creamy texture delivered vanilla, orange zest, lemon zest, and sweet apricot to the front of my palate. As it moved across my tongue, I tasted almond and mushroom on the middle, while the back became spicy with dry oak, black pepper, and clove.

 

Finish:  The boldest finish of the four belonged to this Cognac-finished Bourbon (and, frankly, expected). It wasn’t the longest, but what it brought to the table was impressive. Vanilla, mushroom, and dry oak accompanied black pepper, clove, and old leather.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’ve had many Cognac-finished whiskeys before, and there were some familiar notes on the nose and palate. They’re also similarly priced. This one was delicious, and the best part, in my opinion, is that bold finish. I’d drop $69.99 on it and recommend a Bottle rating.


Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for a Bourbon-tasting Bourbon, none of these Thomas S. Moore expressions will satisfy you. Most of the Bourbon characteristics have been “finished out” during the extended contact with the various vintage barrels. As I alluded to in the Sherry finish review, they’re more of a Scotch-drinker’s Bourbon. For me, that’s not a bad thing – I love all types of Scotch. But if you’re not into Speyside and Highland whiskies, these may be too much for you. If asked to state my favorite, it would be the Merlot finish. 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 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.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Evan Williams 12-Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Evan Williams is perhaps one of the most iconic Bourbon brands today. That and Jim Beam (don't get me started on Jack) are the top players sales-wise. Most of us are familiar with the Black Label, which pretty much keeps Heaven Hill in, pardon the pun, the black. Then, there's my favorite budget Bourbon, the Bottled-in-Bond White Label. The lesser-known brethren are the Single Barrel, 1783, and Green Label.


But, a 12-year old Evan Williams?  Red Label?  What's that all about? In the United States, Red Label is a distillery exclusive. It even comes with a necker label that says Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which is their microdistillery in Louisville. My understanding is that Red Label is also sold in Japan. It is bottled at 101° and runs about $129.99. Whoa... isn't Evan Williams a budget brand?


It is born of the same distillate as any other Evan Williams product:  78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. It is charcoal-filtered just like any other Evan Williams product. It is aged in the same #3, new charred oak barrels like any other Evan Williams product. The big difference is proof and age. But, is that worth a nearly 6-fold premium?  The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label appears as your run-of-the-mill Evan Williams Bourbon. It offers a mellow amber color, and it left a medium rim with fat, wavy legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  This Bourbon produced initial aromas of nutmeg and caramel. Underneath those were corn and mint. Finally, a totally unexpected but distinctive bubble gum smell. When I inhaled through my lips, it was only bubble gum. 


Palate:  When the whiskey crossed my lips, it was much thinner and lighter than I would have otherwise expected. At 101° I'd assume there would be some warmth. Instead, it was soft.  On the front of my palate, it was the very familiar corn and oak. Mid-palate was also the predictable vanilla and caramel. The back was new:  clove, nutmeg, and cocoa.


Finish:  The finish was also atypical of Evan Williams. It started with toasted oak, then gave way to clove, which then almost immediately switched gears to sweet, creamy caramel. I found the finish to be long-lasting and pleasurable.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Was this Evan Williams expression good?  Most certainly. Was it $130 good? No, not to me. That's difficult for me to admit because I'm a fan of all things Evan Williams. But, I can't justify the mark-up over their standard expressions. I can't rate this a Bust because it is a good Bourbon. But, this is something you should definitely try before committing to, and as such, it takes a Bar 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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Daviess County Bourbon Finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Casks Review & Tasting Notes




One of the most widely-recognized grape varietals in the world, grown in nearly every major wine-producing region is Cabernet Sauvignon. Until the 1990s, it was also the most widely planted grape. It was finally surpassed by Merlot, but then in 2015, Cabernet Sauvignon regained its throne. The reason for its popularity is how flavorful it is. Typically, you'll find flavors of heavy red and black fruit.


Today I'm reviewing Daviess County Bourbon Finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Casks. It is produced by Lux Row Distillers of Bardstown, Kentucky.  Daviess County Bourbon is a new expression from Lux Row, and is a blend of sourced wheated and traditional mash Bourbons, most likely from Heaven Hill.  If you want to learn more about the standard expression, you can read my review from May. For the record, it earned my Bottle recommendation.


As the bottle implies, Lux Row took the standard expression and dumped it in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon casks, where it rested another six months.  It carries no age statement, however, we know that means it must be at least four years old. Bottled at 96°, the suggested retail is $44.99.


I'd like to thank Lux Row for sending me a sample of this Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's get to it.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Daviess County Bourbon appears chestnut in color. It left a very thin rim on the wall which created very slow, fat legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose:  The first thing to hit my nostrils was old oak that was slightly musty. Past the oak were plum, blueberries, molasses, and vanilla. That's right, I said blueberries! When I inhaled through my lips, I picked up black currant. 


Palate:  The initial sip was very thin and oily. There was no alcohol punch whatsoever. At the front was smoked oak. I was a bit taken back that there was nothing else offered. However, as it moved mid-palate, I discovered caramel, plum, and (again) blueberry. I must admit that I've never used blueberry in a whiskey review before. The back consisted of honey and grilled peaches.


Finish:  Clove and blueberry stuck around for a very long, enticing finish that lasted several minutes. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This expression of Daviess County Bourbon is a fruit bomb. That's absolutely due to the wine casks.  Blueberry is my favorite fruit, and as you can imagine, when I picked up that note in the nose, palate, and finish, I became a very happy camper. There was nothing off-putting about anything from beginning to end, and when you consider the $44.99 investment, this one becomes a very easy Bottle recommendation. 


On an ending note, I found the Cabernet Sauvignon finish to be the most interesting and the best of the three.  Cheers!


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

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Elijah Craig "Good Carma" Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



If you've followed my reviews for some time, you know that I have some biases. That's right, I'm human. But, I admit them. And, today I'm going to admit another.


I enjoy the hell out of Elijah Craig.


That shouldn't be a surprise. This is something I've stated for a few years now. I stumble upon Elijah Craig store picks and for me, it is almost always a no-brainer. And, I'm going to give you a spoiler - I love the one I'm reviewing today. But, what's important is what makes this store pick worthwhile.


If you're unfamiliar with Elijah Craig (hey, everyone is new to something sometime, right?), it is distilled by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. Heaven Hill uses a mash of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. It is then poured into #3-charred oak barrels.  With average retail of less than $30.00, it is also a very affordable investment. That's the standard release that you'll find on every store shelf.


Then you get into the Single Barrel program (don't be fooled by "Small Batch" on the bottle, they use the same bottle for their Small Batch and their Single Barrel program). In the case of today's review, it is a store pick by Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, Wisconsin called Good Carma.  Good Carma aged in Rickhouse V on the third floor for 11 years, 11 months, and 11 days. It came out of the barrel at 122.9° and then proofed down to the standard 94°, giving a yield of 228 bottles. Retail is $28.99.


I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample of Good Carma in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. With that said, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Good Carma appeared as a very orange amber. While the rim it left was very thin, the legs were fat and wavy.  When they dissipated, droplets stuck to the side like glue.


Nose:  Things started off with brown sugar and vanilla. From there, I found cherries and cinnamon. At the end, it was oak and dried, sweet fruit.  When I inhaled through my lips, caramel-coated cherries flowed across my palate.


Palate:  Here's where things get interesting. The mouthfeel was thick and heavy. At the front, it was a total caramel bomb. There was nothing else to contend with. No matter how many sips I took, I could not get past the caramel.  But, once it hit mid-palate, I tasted a combination of hazelnut, vanilla, and sweet corn.  Then, at the back, toasted oak and brown sugar.


Finish:   Medium in length, I was left wishing it would go longer. It was a blend of toasted oak, white pepper, and caramel. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  My rating is no surprise since I let the cat out of the bag early.  But, Good Carma is dangerous. It goes down way too easy. On one of the warmest, most humid days of the year so far, it could be enjoyed on the back deck without causing any discomfort. There was no real warmth to speak of. This is the kind of Bourbon that doesn't even require effort to get a Bottle rating from me.  Grab it, you can thank me later.  Cheers!




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

Monday, April 20, 2020

Evan Williams Green Label Review




Today is a two-fer special!  Not only did my review of Cinder Dick Straight Bourbon go live this morning, but so did my review of Evan Williams Green Label at Bourbon & Banter!

I’m Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf and when you enter the realm of $10 whiskeys, there’s no doubt where you’re looking – right at the bottom shelf. Evan Williams Green Label is the most basic expression of the brand and is sold in fewer markets than you’d ever guess...

The remainder, including my Bottle, Bar or Bust recommendation, is at the Bourbon & Banter website. Cheers!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Kentucky Owl Confiscated Review & Tasting Notes


Some whiskey brands come on the scene with a whisper, others with a bang. Kentucky Owl is one of the latter. Oh, don't get me wrong, Kentucky Owl is technically not a new brand. It was founded in 1879. But, it also is one of those brands that went away and was recently resurrected. They started with blending Bourbon in 2014 and Rye in 2017. They've been bought out by Stoli and have started constructing a massive campus in Bardstown. There are other things going on, but one of the bang qualities is the price.  Kentucky Owl came on the scene as an ultra-premium whiskey and continues to charge ultra-premium prices.



I will say this much. I have a couple of bottles of Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 1 and it is stupendously delicious. I've seen Batch 2 and was reluctant to pull the trigger, especially after reading some unflattering reviews (mostly comparing an even higher price tag and lower proof than Batch 1). I've tried some of their Bourbons and been impressed. Then, Confiscated hit the market, commanding a $125 suggested pricetag. It carries no age statement, no one knows who in Kentucky actually distilled it, and we're not sure of the mashbill (which would likely give away the distiller). But, we do know it is at least four years old, and it is bottled at 96.4°.



I have a good friend in Florida who owns Fine Spirits Wine & Liquors in Cooper City. He was kind enough to let me sample Confiscated in exchange for a review. 



In my Glencairn glass, Confiscated presented as a deep amber with reddish tones.  It left a medium rim that generated thick, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Aromas of vanilla and caramel dominated my senses.  Beneath those was an absolutely lovely rye spice blended with oak.  I also picked up a hint of pear. When I inhaled through my lips, it was very much a vanilla bomb. 



With my first sip, the mouthfeel was creamy and coating. Subsequent sips kept the creamy factor but it also became oily. Initial flavors of vanilla and dried nuts greeted my palate. That switched up to mint mid-palate, suggesting a higher rye content, and, on the back, it was dry oak and black pepper. The finish was medium-to-long with oak and tobacco and leather.



When my friend asked what I thought, I said I was underwhelmed. He suggested I let it sit for an hour and then revisit it. Normally I'd pass on that opportunity because that's not how I handle reviews in a real-world setting. I give any whiskey plenty of time to breathe before trying it. But, he made the request and I'm always happy to accommodate someone's curiosity (after all, that's all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle). 



When I came back to Confiscated, there wasn't a lot of change.  I picked up berry notes on the nose and when inhaling through my lips. Aside from that, it was the same Bourbon. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I've technically rated this twice. I have enjoyed much of the Kentucky Owl that I've encountered. There is always a return on investment to consider when buying anything, and whiskey is subject to that same equation. Confiscated is good. But, at $125, I want something to be great. Confiscated wasn't that, at least not for me, and in both tastings, I gave this a Bar rating. Try this at a good whiskey bar before you try it. Confiscated has been on store shelves awhile and there should be no fear of missing out.  Cheers!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

My Not So Aimless Wander Around Kentucky

I've been to Kentucky several times. To me, it is the Promised Land. The distilleries, the great people, the Bourbon culture, the gorgeous scenery - it all gets my blood racing. This time around, the purpose was for a Bourbon & Banter barrel pick and some handshaking, and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I decided to make it an extended trip. 






Our first stop was on the way to Kentucky, in Borden, Indiana.  If you're wondering what's in Borden, it is the home to Huber Winery and Orchard and Starlight Distillery



When I was taking part in some barrel picks recently, I was introduced to Starlight via Huber's Old Rickhouse Indiana Straight Rye. Now, I know what you're thinking... Indiana Straight Rye means that this is MGP distillate. I made that same assumption and I was absolutely wrong. Huber's has been around for 170 some-odd years. The distillery is newer, but it is all their own.



Anyway, for $15.00, you get a tour of either the winery or the distillery. Either one includes seven samples. As luck would have it, they had several whiskeys from which to sample, and the only one they were sold out of was the Old Rickhouse.  That's okay because I had a chance to sample their other whiskeys, as well as a Blueberry Port and a Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy.  Reviews of the whiskeys will follow.



I will say this much:  Starlight is a distillery you should pay attention to. I predict big things once people learn about it.





Our next stop was to Louisville Distilling Company, a/k/a Angel's Envy. This working distillery was opened in an ex-elevator and sawblade factory. For $18, they put on a very nice tour that gives you a lot of ins-and-outs and provided some good transparency. What you don't get is a glass to keep at the end of the tour. We had a fantastic guide named Peter who knew his stuff and had a great sense of humor. Honestly, a lot of these tours give you the same basic information on the distilling process. Each has some unique aspect of what makes them special. But, the tour guide makes or breaks these tours, and if you get Peter, you're going to have a very enjoyable one.


We sampled their standard Bourbon finished in Port barrels. Once the tour ends, you're invited to their bar where you can order cocktails or their Rye finished in rum casks.


The gift shop was gorgeous, but things were more on the pricey end of the spectrum.





Then, it was off to Old Forester.  This is a working distillery re-opened original location on Whiskey Row. What makes Old Forester unique is they have a working mini cooperage on-premises. I've been to cooperages before and building a barrel is a fascinating process. Being Sunday, the staff was off, but the equipment was still there. Our tour guide was McKenzie who was full of energy and animated. She made it fun. At one point, after she was done explaining where the various flavors come from, my buddy Jim Knudson and I asked her, "Where does the marzipan come from?" Kudos to McKenzie for not missing a beat and getting halfway through her explanation before she stopped and asked, "Is this some sort of set-up?" We admitted it was and had a great laugh.


We sampled the workhorse, Old Forester 86, then 1897 Bottled in Bond, and then their brand-new release of their Rye. For $14 it is a nice tour that, again, does not include a tasting glass to keep at the end. The gift shop has very fair pricing.






Monday morning was the crown jewel.  We met up with Eddie Russell at Wild Turkey to do our barrel pick of Russell's Reserve.  If you're curious, Eddie is very down-to-earth and an all-around gem. We didn't tour the facility, but we did hang out in one of the rickhouses to sample directly from the barrels. We settled on an absolutely delicious one, but until it is time for release, I'll withhold details.








Next was probably the most unusual tour I've ever been on. We were able to tour the Castle & Key distillery on a private tour. Our guide was Abigail, and she knew everything about everything. What made Castle & Key fascinating was how they're still renovating things on the campus. This distillery used to be the Old Taylor Distillery and was left abandoned and severely neglected. They've done a marvelous job restoring things to their original condition as much as possible while ensuring things are safe and up to code. When they're finished, I predict Castle & Key will be like Woodford Reserve or Maker's Mark, where the campus itself will be a destination beyond the distillery.


Castle & Key is not sourcing anything. Currently, they've got vodka and a couple of gins, but we were able to sample some of the newmake that is aging in one of the original rickhouses.  They've also got a gift shop that is well-stocked with variety and was surprisingly affordable.










From there, we went to Michter's Fort Nelson for a private tour. Our guide was Jacqueline, who had an amazing sense of humor and put up with a lot of our silly jokes, including the marzipan one (and then joined in on the fun). We wound up skipping some of the basics since she knew we were not distillery newbies, and really enjoyed the tasting, which included the Michter's 10 Bourbon and Rye as well as the 20 Bourbon. For the record, the 20 is stupidly amazing. 


Michter's also has a very interesting bar at the end of the tour. Here, you can try pretty much anything Michter's has ever produced, including the famed Celebration. You may need to take out a small loan for that, though. Their gift shop is very nice and what I browsed seemed affordable.




 


The next day was our two final distillery tours, starting with Lux Row DistillersOne of the burning questions I've had was Lux Row's relationship with Limestone Branch. I discovered that these are sister organizations under the Luxco parent company.  Thank you to our host, Vincent.


Lux Row is another one of those drop-dead gorgeous campuses. This was erected on a farm near Bardstown and the scenery is amazing. Too bad I didn't catch much of it on film. We were able to sample Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks 90, and David Nicholson Reserve. We were then given the choice of their Double-Barrel Bourbon and Blood Oath V for our final. I recently reviewed the Double-Barrel Bourbon and fell in love with it, but have a bottle at home and opted for the Blood Oath. 


Lux Row also has a beautiful and affordable gift shop.








The final distillery tour was at Bardstown Bourbon Company.  This distillery landed on the Kentucky scene with one plan and wound up with something completely different. They set out to do their own distillate and took on some clients for contract distilling. From there, the contract distilling business apparently went gangbusters. Every client has their own completely customized mashbill and is then distilled by BBC. I don't recall the exact number, but our guide, Sam, told us it was somewhere around 43 different mashbills they distill. 



The campus itself is very modern, from the distillery to the guest center to the rickhouses. One curiosity for me was the feasibility of the rickhouse design. The inside was fine, it was the outside. Rickhouses grow a lot of lovely mold on the outside as the angels take their share, but the way the BBC ones were designed with glass walls and wood plank siding, looks like they'd need to be regularly cleaned to maintain the appearance of the campus. Of course, I could be way off base here. 


When you come through the front door of BBC, the lobby is their restaurant which, if you're curious, has a very nice menu and the food is well-prepared. Their bar has much more than what you'd find at bars of other distilleries. It is fully stocked with a variety of brands. Their gift shop was minimalistic and could best be described as "new retro-modern" in design. They sold not only their house brand of whiskeys but also those of their clients.


On a side note, in the photo below (the overview of them loading barrels), this guy in the warehouse was very talented. He would spin and flip the barrels to get them in the right place. Spinning and rolling I could understand. Flipping? That looked like it required a lot of practice!





And with that, my time with my fellow Bourbon & Banter colleagues came to a finale.




This was, overall, a really fun experience. As I stated at the start, I've been to Kentucky several times. But, it had been five years since I'd been, and there has been a lot of growth in Bourbon Country. Aside from the wonderful fellowship with my colleagues (and seeing many of them in person for the first time), except for Wild Turkey, these were all distilleries that were new to me.


If you've never been to Kentucky, you should go. And, if it has been several years since you last visited, maybe it is time to consider a return.  As for me, I will not wait another five years.


Cheers!