Showing posts with label Bourbon & Banter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bourbon & Banter. Show all posts

Thursday, June 10, 2021

What To Do With That "Bad" Whiskey?


 

Recently, I had someone approach me saying they bought a whiskey they didn’t like and asked if I could recommend a good cocktail they could make with it. This is more common of a question than you’d imagine. I believe it stems not just from buyer’s remorse but also that money was spent, and indeed there must be a way to salvage it.


Let’s get one thing out of the way: There is a big difference between a whiskey that is slated to be a “mixer” and one that is just not palatable...


You can read the rest of the article (and my advice) over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!



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

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Is This Whiskey Worth The Price?


 

If you've been on social media more than five minutes, you've been asked, "Is this whiskey worth this price?" Well, I've put together a handy-dandy how-to for you on Bourbon & Banter!


Predictably, questions of that nature lead to all sorts of answers. Some are helpful, others not so much. To be fair, I find that most fall into the latter.  The snarky ones are obvious. The serious ones are harder to recognize how subjective they are...


 You can read this in its entirety there, just click the link above. Cheers!



Monday, December 14, 2020

Seven Things Whiskey Reviewers Wish You Knew

 




"Back in May of 2017, I wrote a piece called The Life and Times of Whiskey Reviewer. The purpose was to tell you what the four worst questions folks ask us and what’s going through our minds when you ask them.


Here we are, three and a half years later, and I find myself with a slew of questions and assumptions that should be addressed en masse. Some come from readers, some come from distillers and producers. No matter who is asking, these questions are more common than you’d think..."


My latest article at Bourbon & Banter is all about things we whiskey reviewers wish you knew. Head on over and give it a read, cheers!



Monday, October 26, 2020

Whiskey Wisdom: Age & Price Can't Beat Taste

 


My latest advice column is up on Bourbon & Banter


I write this article with the full knowledge and understanding that I’ll probably piss off a lot of folks in the whiskey industry: anyone from distillers to marketing teams to distributors to retailers. However, what I’m suggesting is being said without malice. Rather, I’m just dispelling two big whiskey myths, and both can have an impact on the average whiskey drinker’s bank account. Also, these two myths tend to go hand in hand...


Enjoy, cheers!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The 30 Days of Bourbon Recap and my Donation to RSDSA.org to Help Cure CRPS

September was a ton of fun - a well-needed (and earned) break from the disaster that is 2020. The #30DaysofBourbon challenge was bigger, badder, and better than it has ever been. This year, I relaxed one of the rules allowing for different proofs of the same label to be counted as different Bourbons. You can thank COVID-19 for that.



Truth be told, until the last few years, I've hated being in photos and I still hate being in videos. I don't mind public speaking, I don't mind being a guest on someone's webcast. In fact, I enjoy those things. But, when I'm on my own doing my own thing, I really dislike being in front of the camera. As such, part of the 30 Days of Bourbon challenge is for me to make myself uncomfortable.


Things started off with a video introduction and explanation. Then, on September 1st, the challenge kicked off with Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond.  This is my house Bourbon, the one that I never allow to disappear from my whiskey library.



Day two was a celebration of George Garvin Brown's birthday. He was the namesake of Brown-Forman, which owns Old Forester, and is credited with offering the first bottled Bourbon. Each year, on September 2nd, Old Forester releases its Birthday Bourbon. This release is from 2016.  By the way, check out my t-shirt!



On Day three, I decided to go with something discontinued. In this case, it was Ezra Brooks 7-year, which is a 101° rumored to be sourced from Heaven Hill. If you stumble across this one on the shelf, do yourself a favor and grab it. You can thank me later!



For the fourth day, I decided to crank things up a bit and pour something barrel proof. That led me to EH Taylor Barrel Proof. This one is from 2015 and rings in at a hefty 124.7°. It was the first Bourbon I had that gave me a purely overwhelming blast of berries.




Day Five was my introduction to Barrel-Proof Bourbon:  Elijah Craig.  Not this particular release, but still before the bottle redesign. This beauty came out of the barrel at 139.4° in May 2016. In the current labeling system, it would be called B516.



As day six rolled around, I selected an exemplary reason why it is so important to #DrinkCurious. When I was early on in my whiskey journey, my wife bought me Old Weller Antique. It burned like hell and my palate was just too young to appreciate it. About two years ago, I revisited it, and ever since then I've been kicking myself for passing up all the opportunities I had to buy it while it was easy to find.  Lesson learned:  If you don't like something now, give it a second chance down the road.




To round out the first week, Day 7 was probably the most unusual pour:  Jim Beam Signature Whole Rolled Oat.  This is an 11-year Bourbon whose mash substituted rolled oats for the typical rye content. These Signature releases seem to hit the clearance aisles of liquor stores that I've visited, and they're mostly good stuff.




On the eighth day, I selected another discontinued label, this time from Heaven HillOld Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond went from an everyday opportunity to an allocated, limited edition run. You used to be able to pick these up for about $20.00.  The new version will set you back over $100.00, but carries an age statement and is aged many more years. 




The ninth day went to the first private barrel (a/k/a store pick) of the month:  Maker's Mark Private Selection.  This one was for Mahen's which has a few stores in the greater Madison area. Maker's is customizable by the customer - you get to choose from various staves to add to the finish and make it all your own. 



I'm big on humor. Learn, Laugh, & Enjoy Great Whiskey is my slogan. The 10th pour of the month has a funny name: Cinder Dick. It was the name that encouraged me to first try it, because, good or bad, it made me smile. As it turned out, this is a serious whiskey. 




The choice for my 11th pour was not easy. September 11th is a somber day for the United States. What makes one distillery better than another or more deserving? Bourbon is America's Native Spirit, I don't think any single distillery is more "American" than another. But, the Blaum Bros use red, white, and blue on their in-house distilled labels, of which Old Fangled Knotter Bourbon is not. I selected the 12-year cask strength at 114°.


I had something completely different planned for the 12th day, but as happens every single year, things change. Wiggly Bridge Distillery sent me a bottle of its Bottled-in-Bond expression for a review, and after a few days, I couldn't stand the suspense and cracked it open. 



The 13th day brought a very limited-edition pour from Whiskey Acres Distilling Co. out of Dekalb, Illinois. It is a 5.5-grain Bourbon made from wheat, oats, rye, malted barley, and then two types of corn: green and yellow. Those two corn varietals make the 1.5 of the 5.5 grains.  It was aged only a year, but it was one tasty pour.



I rounded out the second week with Old 55 Single Barrel Bourbon. Old 55 is a farm-to-glass whiskey out of Indiana, and their rickhouse is in the basement of a former elementary school, giving it very little change in temperature despite seasonal changes. 




At the halfway point, I decided my 15th pour would be the Bourbon that changed my mind about Texas Bourbons:  Still Austin's The Musician. This two-year-old really impressed me.



I opted out of being in the photo for Day 16 because you'd never see the lettering on the bottle label and it would just look weird. This is Lux Row Distillers' Double Barrel Bourbon, which was my 2019 Bourbon of the Year.




The 17th pour of my challenge was Tumblin’ Dice Barrel Proof. This four-year MGP distillate will knock your socks off, and so will the price. Oh yeah, I'm back in the photos.




The 18th Bourbon was Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond. This is the one that started me on my #RespectTheBottomShelf campaign. It was also my introduction to bonded whiskeys. Unfortunately, this one is kind-of, sort-of discontinued. While still available at 100°, it has lost its Bottled-in-Bond status.



On the 19th day, I poured Wollersheim Distillery's 2020 Spring Release Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. Drink local, right? Moreover, Drink Wisconsinbly!



At the two-thirds mark, twenty days in, I went in with Fighting Cock 103. This is a Heaven Hill Distillery 6-year bottling which hs been discontinued, but a no-age-statement version is still around. 



My 21st pour was Kentucky Peerless Straight Bourbon. This is done in small batches but is bottled at barrel proof. In this case, it was 109.5°.



At this point, I planned on everything forward to be a store pick. The 22nd pour would be the only one that I'd not personally picked, but it had to be done because, well, what would a month of Bourbon be without Buffalo Trace?  This one is from Monumental Enterprises in McFarland. 




And now, for something completely different: Every Bourbon for the remainder of the month is from a barrel that I personally picked. To start that off, the 23rd pour is “Unicorn Slayer” - a 7.5 year Backbone Bourbon bottled at 119.3° and picked by the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for Niemuth’s Southside Market.




For the 24th pour, I chose J. Henry & Sons Patton Road Reserve. This was picked for The Speakeasy_WI and Riley's Wines of the World in Madison back in 2018. Barrel number 210!



For the 25th pour, I chose "Scott's Holy Grail" - a 1792 Full Proof picked for The Speakeasy_WI and Neil's Liquors of Middleton in 2019. 



On Day 26, the pour was a Russell's Reserve pick called "The Candyman." Picking Wild Turkey has been an interesting chapter in my life because, until recently, I wasn't the biggest fan. But, I'm at the point in my journey where I appreciate what it is and what it can be. This was a 2020 pick, again for The Speakeasy_WI and Neil's Liquor



I’m going with a George Remus pick from a few months ago called “Bootlegger Bentley's.” Bentley is a loveable Newfie that belongs to Troy, the owner of The SpeakEasy_WI. Given the opportunity, I’d steal him. This is one of the better whiskeys I’ve stumbled across in 2020 and was picked for Neil's Liquor in Middleton.

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And then, there's the 28th. Year over year, my 28th pour is the same. Always. This was picked on September 28th, 2013, which happened to be my 11th wedding anniversary. It was my first barrel pick. I really only drink this Four Roses OBSO on September 28th, with my goal to keep being able to take a sip as long as I'm alive. This 10-year comes in at 126.8° and was picked for Fine Spirits in Cooper City, Florida.


With only two days left, I went with Woodinville Whiskey Co's first barrel-proof release in Wisconsin for the 29th pour, picked with The Speakeasy_WI for Neil's Liquor. We called this one "Whassup? Flockers." It weighs in at 119.6°.




And then, finally, all good things come to an end. Day 30, the final day - what to choose? How about an amazing Knob Creek Single Barrel I helped pick for Riley's Wines of the World with The Speakeasy_WI. This one is called "The Rat Pick" and while I've been involved with some incredible barrel picks, this one's my second favorite of all time. Yeah, that's my face on the sticker. 



And with that, we come to the best part of the #30DaysofBourbon Challenge - the giving back. I have selected the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association at RSDSA.org as my charitable donation. I support the RSDSA every year because it is personal - Mrs. Whiskeyfellow has been an amazing Pain Warrior and battling this horrific nerve disorder for several years. The RSDSA provides awareness, assistance, and education about RSD/CRPS and helps drive research for a cure. It is my sincerest hope that one day, CRPS will be a faint memory and those afflicted will be able to live pain-free again.



Thank you for taking part in my #30DaysofBourbon Challenge. Cheers!

Friday, August 28, 2020

If it is September then the #30DaysofBourbon challenge is on!

 



It is that time of the year again - September means it is Bourbon Heritage Month. This year is also the sixth annual #30DaysofBourbon Challenge!


If you think that sounds sissyish and easy, you're wrong. Lots of folks try it and wind up dropping out for one reason or another. There's also a charity angle here because the whiskey community is filled with awesome people who love doing great things for others!


Head on over to Bourbon & Banter to read all about it, download your calendar, and get started.  By the way, this year, because of the pandemic, one of the rules has been relaxed.


#DrinkCurious and Cheers!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Virginia-Highland Port Cask Finished Whisky Review & Tasting Notes




Live, from Bourbon & Banter, it is my review of Virginia Distilling Company's Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky!  I promise you this is much different from most anything you've tasted.


You can read the review in its entirety here.  Cheers!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Redemption High Rye Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



"We think you can never have too much rye, so our High Rye Bourbon recipe approaches the upper limit of allowable rye grain in a bourbon mash bill."Redemption Whiskey

 Are you a fan of MGP?  Do you like affordable whiskeys?  If you've answered, "yes" to at least one of those questions, then you'll want to catch my review of Redemption High Rye Bourbon over at Bourbon & Banter.  Cheers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Prelude: Courage & Conviction Review & Tasting Notes



Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to try Virginia Distillery Co.'s Prelude: Courage & Conviction, an American Single Malt. My review of it is now live at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!


Friday, May 1, 2020

Bourbon & Banter has a new podcast...




Yesterday, Bourbon & Banter released its second podcast. I cohosted and we interviewed Lew Bryson.

I've been a guest on many podcasts, but it is a completely different world being a cohost.

You can listen to the podcast in its entirety at this link. Cheers!

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, February 28, 2020

My Guest Appearance on My Whiskey Den



I had a great live stream on YouTube last night with the folks from My Whiskey Den. These are some super nice guys and I really enjoyed the interview.  


You can view it on their channel.  Cheers!

Monday, February 10, 2020

McKenzie Straight Rye Whiskey Review



Today's review is of McKenzie Straight Rye Whiskey, distilled by Finger Lakes Distilling in New York.  This one was published at Bourbon & Banter and, due to professional courtesy and copyright laws, you'll have to click on the link to read it.  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!