Showing posts with label Brown-Forman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brown-Forman. Show all posts

Monday, September 26, 2022

Woodford Reserve Distillery Series Honey Barrel Finish Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I’ve always been impressed with the ingenuity of people who can repurpose things. It doesn’t matter if it is an entertainment center converted into a bar, a ladder made into a bookshelf, or a wheelbarrow that gets a new life as a planter. To me, it is fascinating (and, frankly, I’m jealous that I can never think of those things).


Distillers have done the same thing for many years. Bourbon and American Rye can only be aged in brand new barrels, and many find new life in other countries where whiskeys (and other spirits) can be aged in vintage oak. More recently, those barrels have wound up at breweries, wineries, coffee estates, and beekeepers, where their products are kept and take on the qualities of what’s stuck in the wood.


What’s fun is when a distillery sends off a barrel, it is used to store something else and then returns to that same distillery to become a finishing barrel. And, that’s how we wind up with today’s Woodford Reserve Honey Barrel Finish review.


Honey Barrel Finish is part of Woodford’s Distillery Series, an annual release of experimental whiskeys where Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall have some fun with their creative juices.


“One of the best parts of my job is being able to experiment with new ways of making Woodford Reserve. It’s been rewarding to work with a honey producer here in Woodford County to create this unique Distillery Series expression and support local business and agriculture.” – Chris Morris


This release begins with a standard, used Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrel sent off to a local honeybee farmer in Woodford County, Kentucky. After the honey was aged, it was returned to Woodford Reserve and filled with properly-aged Woodford Reserve Bourbon for a short time.


Honey Barrel Release is bottled at Woodford’s usual 90.4° and is available in a 375ml package. It can be procured from the distillery gift shop and “select retailers” around Kentucky.


Before you start scrambling to get your hands on a bottle, I’m sure you’d like to know how it tastes, and the only way to do that is to #DrinkCurious. But, first, I must thank Woodford Reserve for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: I poured this neat into my Glencairn glass, and it appeared as a deep, dark caramel. One of the thickest rims I’ve seen stuck to the wall until it set free slow, thick tears.


Nose: The influence of the honey was impossible to miss as the aroma wafting from the glass. Butterscotch, vanilla cookies, and oak came next. I tasted coconut macaroons when I pulled the air in through my lips.


Palate:  From the stickiness of the rim, I would have expected a heavy mouthfeel. Nope. It was oily and thin. Bit O’Honey was the first thing I tasted, and as it turned out, was the entirety of the front. The mid-palate consisted of orange blossom, toasted coconut, and nutmeg flavors. The back exploded with allspice, clove, and dry oak.  


Finish: The oak became chewy, and the spice notes continued to build. The clove and allspice competed for attention. Then dark-roast coffee came out of nowhere. I sat there and waited for it to end, and it took several minutes to begin to fall off. Once it did, it dropped quickly.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Nothing is reminiscent of Woodford Reserve’s flagship Bourbon here. When you think of something with honey, you don’t often associate that with a big, bold spice bomb. Yet, that’s what Honey Barrel Finish gave, especially on the back and finish. All the sweetness was up front, and by the time I swallowed, it was nowhere to be found. If you’re searching for a Bourbon way off the beaten path, I believe Woodford Reserve Honey Barrel Finish will satisfy that desire. As for me, I wasn’t a fan on the first sip. But by the third, I found myself refilling my glass to enjoy this some more. I am happy to have this one in my whiskey library, and it earns my 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.



Friday, July 22, 2022

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 118.4 (2022) Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof started five years ago as part of the distillery’s Master's Collection, essentially as an experimental product line from Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall 


Woodford does things a bit differently than many other distilleries. It starts with a mash of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. They use limestone water obtained from right at the distillery. Nothing unusual with that so far, but it is the next steps that matter:  It uses a six-day fermentation process, which is longer than the industry average of three. It is triple-distilled using a blending of whiskeys from both pot and column stills. Entry-proof is also lower than average, brought down to 110° before being poured into new, #4 charred-oak barrels. 


“Barrels drawn from the first floors of our heat-cycled warehouses routinely possess lower proof presentations due the more relaxed angel share process found there. This batch had more of these barrels in its composition, and therefore a lower batch proof presentation than past releases.” – Chris Moore, Master Distiller 


Woodford Reserve carries no age statement but ages a minimum of four years. The price of Batch Proof is $129.99 for a 750ml bottle, which has remained the same for the last several years. The 2022 release weighs in at 118.4°. 


So, how does this particular release taste? Let's #DrinkCurious and find out. But, first, I'd like to thank Woodford Reserve for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 


Appearance:  A deep, dark amber gave the impression of something aged far longer than the four-year minimum. A medium-thin rim created almost random, fat droplets that fell down the wall of my Glencairn glass.


Nose: This Bourbon was fragrant from across the room. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow was seated about ten feet from me and picked out notes. It was a fruit bomb with plum, dark cherry, elderberry, and blackberry. A puff of the air in my mouth tasted of thick, rich vanilla.


Palate:  An intense, oily texture greeted my tongue. Coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel formed the front, with flavors of dark cherry, orange peel, and elderberry on the middle. The back was black pepper, dry oak, and allspice.


Finish: Long and very warming, the coffee and dark chocolate held their own against the black pepper and allspice. Every so often, a kiss of caramel would poke through.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The nose was lovely, the palate had plenty going on, and overall, this is a good Bourbon. I’m hung up on the price. I said the same thing when I reviewed Batch 123.6 (2020). Batch 118.4 takes the same rating: Bar. 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, June 27, 2022

Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Oat Grain Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


In the heart of horse country lies one of the most beautiful distillery campuses you’ll come across. Founded in 1812 as the Oscar Pepper Distillery, then the Labrot & Graham Distillery, Woodford Reserve is one of the flagship properties owned by Brown-Forman starting in 1941, then sold off in the 1960s, only to be repurchased in 1993. The Woodford Reserve brand was launched in 1996.


Since 2015, Woodford Reserve has been tinkering with unusual whiskeys. Some, like Double Double Oaked, have been released mostly annually. Others are one-and-done whiskeys.


“Experimenting with new ways of making Woodford Reserve is one of my favorite parts of my job. It allows us to explore new flavors with our bourbon.”Chris Morris, Master Distiller


Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Oat Grain is part of the distillery’s annual Distillery Series release. It is made from fully-matured Woodford Oak Bourbon that was dumped into and finished in a new, heavily-toasted barrel for an undisclosed period—packaged at 90.4° in 375ml bottles, which is available at the distillery and “select Kentucky retailers” for $59.99.


I must thank Woodford Reserve for supplying me with a sample of this limited-release whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and taste what this is all about.


Appearance: Poured neat into a Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as deep chestnut. It left a medium-thin rim that released fast tears back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: This was an experience of mixed fruits and baked goods: oatmeal cookies, brown sugar, and cinnamon powder blended with plum and black cherry. As I drew the vapor past my lips, it was like a puff of cocoa popped in my mouth.


Palate: An oily texture greeted my tongue, and the front of my palate encountered a blast of spice that featured clove, big oak, and orange peel. I tasted nutmeg, brown sugar, and oatmeal in the middle, while the back offered cinnamon spice, chocolate, and char.


Finish:  The finish was medium-to-long and had flavors of clove, cocoa, chocolate, toasted oak, orange peel, and black cherry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ve had oat whiskeys before and have yet to find one undesirable. I’m not sure what the oat adds, but whatever it is, I believe it should be included more often. Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Oat Grain is an unusual pour, especially with the spiciness you don’t expect from this distillery. Is it pricey? Yeah, especially when you do the math and figure the 750ml cost. But it is also worth drinking, and if you can get your hands on a Bottle, just do it. 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, June 17, 2022

The BenRiach Cask Edition Single Cask Scotch Reviews & Tasting Notes


Dr. Rachel Barrie is a brilliant Master Blender. She holds that title at three different Brown-Forman distilleries: The GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh, and BenRiach. She is the first female Master Blender to earn an honorary doctorate; she is an inductee of Whisky Magazine’s “Hall of Fame.” In September 2020, she was named a Keeper of the Quaich.


This month, BenRiach released three of its first-ever single cask, single malt Scotch offerings exclusive to the US market. It is called The BenRiach Cask Edition.


“Our ‘sleeping beauties’, as we often call these casks, continue to be sourced from all over the world, enabling us to creatively explore the full flavor possibilities of Speyside Single Malt. Each cask will tell its own story of a journey of flavor where the spirit is married with oak, over years and through the seasons, to really create a unique moment in time never to be repeated again.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie


Today I have an opportunity, thanks to BenRiach, to #DrinkCurious and write a no-strings-attached, honest review of all three. They’re all naturally colored, non-chill filtered, and each has a very different cooperage.


Something new and different is the packaging. We’re used to 750ml bottles in the United States. With updated regulations, 700ml is now allowable for our market.


Let’s get to the first pour!


Cask #3812 – 12 Years


Cask #3812 was distilled in 2009 and spent a dozen years in a former Pedro Ximénez sherry puncheon. The yield was 642 bottles at its 58.2% cask strength (116.4°). You can expect to pay about $100 on one of 642 - 700ml bottles, which is limited in availability to CA, KY, OR, WA, GA, MA, and NY.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Cask #3812 appeared coppery and created a thin rim. Medium-weighted legs raced back to the pool.


Nose: A fragrance of apricot and raisin jumped from the glass while it was still resting on the table. Upon closer inspection, I found chocolate, caramel, and orange peel. The orange peel turned candied as I took that air into my mouth.


Palate: A silky, full-bodied texture greeted my tongue, captivating my interest. The front of my palate encountered milk chocolate, butterscotch, and honey, while the middle featured lemon and orange zest combined with raisin. On the back, I tasted leather, oak, and nuts.


Finish: The long-lasting finish kept leather, tobacco, dark chocolate, and oak in my mouth and throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cask #3812 is a sip-and-smile whisky. That’s about the best description I can offer. Yeah, it is a 12-year with a $100 asking price. But, it is cask strength, yet doesn’t drink at that proof. It is a single barrel, (obviously) limited-edition Scotch. And, dammit, it is delicious. I’d pay $100 all day long for this; I just wish it was anywhere near my market. It is a Bottle rating for sure!




Cask #10297 – 23 Years


Cask #10297 delves into that much more rare territory, distilled back in 1997 and spent 23 years in a vintage Marsala wine cask. The yield was only 264 bottles spread around AZ, CO, DC, DE, FL, IL, MD, MN, NV, PA, SC, and WI. A 55.4% ABV (110.8°) – 700ml package will set you back about $330.00.


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass showed this Scotch’s orange-amber appearance. A thinner rim released medium-thick, fast legs.


Nose: Floral notes were joined by fruits such as peach, cherry, and citrus. They were blended together with thick, dense vanilla. Inhaling through my mouth caused orange and vanilla to dance across my tongue.  


Palate: The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. Vanilla, strawberry, and cherry started things off, with orange zest and honey at mid-palate. The back consisted of dark chocolate, oak, and clove.


Finish:  Medium in duration, the finish featured flavors of cherry, strawberry, oak, and clove.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cask #10297 was elegant and unique. The only thing I could complain about the tasting experience was that short finish. I kept sipping more as I wanted to retain those flavors in my mouth; they never stuck. The question becomes, would I pay $330.00 for this whisky? I’m not convinced. But, you should absolutely try this at a Bar if you can find it.




Cask #15058 – 24 Years


Finally, there’s Cask #15058. This single malt Scotch was distilled in 1997 and slept 24 years in an Oloroso puncheon. It weighs in at 55.4% (110.8°), and the yield was a surprising 641 – 700ml bottles. Availability is extremely limited to GA, MA, NY, and unnamed metropolitan areas around the country. If you see one, expect to shell out $388.00 for it.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky appeared as liquid caramel. Try as I might, I could not get a rim to form. It just kept collapsing into long, wavy tears.


Nose:  I started craving dessert when my olfactory sense ran into vanilla, caramel, cinnamon apple, Nutella, and oak. Cinnamon and vanilla tangoed in my mouth as I pulled the vapor inside.


Palate:  A slick, oily mouthfeel ponied up orange marmalade, apricot, and cinnamon apple on the front, with chocolate, hazelnut, and black currant at the middle. The back featured leather, tobacco, and caramel.


Finish:  The leather became very dry on the finish. Tobacco leaf, raisin, and oak were about to complete it when a non-peaty, smoky kiss closed things out.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Have you ever dreamt of sipping on a fine Scotch in your private study? Well, Cask #15058 fits that bill perfectly. It is a sultry, sophisticated pour that commands your full attention. Sure, it is a $380.00 investment, but you’ll bite the bullet and prove how smart you were to grab a Bottle.  


Final Thoughts:  It was so fun to try all three of these single cask Scotches. The 12-year is my favorite, partially because I’m a sucker for an excellent PX-cask whisky, and it is a heck of a value to boot. Next was the 24-year. It is, simply put, an experience. The third was the 23-year. It was a lovely pour; I couldn’t justify its outlay.


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, March 23, 2022

Canadian Mist Blended Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Let’s get something out of the way here. I’ve not tried Canadian Mist in probably the last dozen years. Why? Because the last time it passed my lips, I was in Orlando, and it was the only whisky poured at the event I was attending. It was hideous. Canadian Mist is the whisky that turned me off of Canadian whiskies.


I wasn’t reviewing whiskey a dozen years ago. My palate has refined significantly since then. With the whole #DrinkCurious mantra, I’m supposed to return to things I didn’t previously enjoy and give them second (and sometimes third) chances.


What is Canadian Mist? It is a blended Canadian whisky founded in 1967 by Brown-Forman. It is made from a mash of rye from Ontario and Alberta, corn grown from within 100 miles of the distillery in Collingwood, Ontario, and malted barley. Triple-distilled in a column still, Canadian Mist uses water sourced from Georgian Bay. It rested “at least” 36 months in used, charred oak barrels that formerly held “heavier whiskeys” in climate-controlled warehouses. Sazerac purchased the brand in 2020. You can expect to spend $9.99 for a 750ml, 40% ABV (80°) package.

I picked up a 50ml taster for $0.99 at some random liquor store. Let’s see if this is any better than I remember.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Canadian Mist was the color of yellow straw. A medium rim led to fat, sticky tears.


Nose: I smelled acetone, caramel, butterscotch, and something like synthetic citrus. When I brought the air into my mouth, it was kinda-sorta butterscotch.


Palate:  The texture was thin. The first thing I tasted was something chemical. It took a lot to get past it, but I eked out maple and a fake-tasting caramel. Please don’t ask me to break it up into the front, middle, and back because I can’t.


Finish:  Too long and bitter, Canadian Mist’s finish featured caramel and more acetone.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  My gosh, it all came back at me as I was smelling this. The only thing I can say that is attractive about Canadian Mist is it is dirt cheap. It is a palate wrecker. I can’t see attempting to salvage this in a cocktail, and I refuse even to try. Rating Canadian Mist as a Bust does a disservice to the Bust rating. Drink anything else.


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, November 8, 2021

The BenRiach Malting Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

One month each year, the folks at The BenRiach spread barley on its malting floor, watch it carefully while turning it by hand, and pick the “perfect” time to move it to the kiln to dry and stop the germination process.


The BenRiach is a Speyside distillery and is known for doing things in its own way. Dr. Rachel Barrie is one of the most respected master blenders in the business.  And, in 2021, she’s taken a single malt Scotch in an entirely new direction with Malting Season.


“Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with BenRiach being one of only seven distilleries in Scotland to continue the practice of floor malting.

Distilling spirit from barley malted here on site is a true labour of love and something we are passionate about keeping alive here at BenRiach as an ode to our creative whisky-making heritage.”Stewart Buchanan, The BenRiach global brand ambassador


It begins with the aforementioned once-a-year malting. A concerto strain of barley, the most common, was used, and in this case, 100% of it came from the malting floor. The distillation took place on November 2, 2012. That single malt new make then aged in two types of casks:  virgin American oak and former Bourbon barrels and rested for nine years. The yield was 6672 bottles, and you can expect to pay about $149.99 for a 750ml package.


Before I get to the review, I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Malting Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I’ll #DrinkCurious and get to it.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Malting Season presented as the color of bright gold. It left a medium-thick rim that led to husky, slow legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Honey was obvious. Peach, vanilla, Fuji apple, malt, and raw almond aromas lay beneath. As I pulled the air through my lips, the Fuji apple gained strength.


Palate:  The mouthfeel offered a medium-weight body and was silky. Fuji apple, Bartlett pear, and honey started things off. As the whisky moved to the middle, toasted almond and vanilla took over. Then, on the back was a blend of oak, white peppercorn, and milk chocolate.


Finish:  The oak became dry, the white pepper remained, and then became sweet with honey and apple, then featured a redux of the dry oak. This was one of those big finishes that lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Malting Season is a stunningly good Scotch. The balanced palate and finish offered a substantial presence with bold flavors. There’s no astringent. There’s no peat. The proof is just right without being unnecessarily diluted. Would I spend $149.99 on this? I believe so, but I’d also like to see it come down about $20.00 or so in price. Regardless, this earned every bit of my Bottle rating. Grab one. This is the first edition of what’s sure to become an amazing annual release. 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.



Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Benriach Smoke Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

The Speyside region is known for many things, but peated whiskies are the exception to the rule. Those that have this quality tend to be mildly so.


For the last fifty years, The BenRiach has been offering a line of peated Scotches. I’ve reviewed a few of them and found them to be quite tasty. Even the Peated Cask Strength was not overly peated. During the summer, Benriach would send peated malt through the still. For the remainder, it would distill unpeated malt. It calls the period when peated malt is used Smoke Season.


“Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and this new addition gives both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet, and smoky character of Benriach single malt, crafted in Speyside, a whisky-making region rarely associated with peated malt. At Benriach, we never stop exploring how fruit, oak barley, and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in our broad range of eclectic casks.”Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


Smoke Season is an intensely-peated single-malt Scotch that carries no age statement. It aged in a small portion of first-fill Bourbon barrels, with the majority in both charred and toasted virgin American oak casks. Bottled at 52.8% ABV (105.6°), this is the first year it has been available in the US market. You can expect to pay about $71.99 for a 750ml package.


I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Smoke Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. The way we make that part happen is to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Smoke Season presented as a bronze amber. It made an ultra-thin rim on the glass that gave no time whatsoever for the watery legs to crash back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: There is no mistake that this is a peated whisky!  Burnt oak, caramel, vanilla, toffee, and citrus provided a well-balanced aroma that would drive any Islay fan bonkers. When I drew the air into my mouth, vanilla and toasted oak caressed my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was slick and oily, coating every nook and cranny of my mouth. The front featured a Crème Brulee that was subjected a bit too long to the flame and cinnamon. At mid-palate, I tasted pear, caramel apple, and orange peel. The back suggested charred oak, black pepper, and dark chocolate.


Finish:  The smoky finish offered no astringent quality. It consisted of charred oak and barbeque smoke. Poking through those heavy notes was a vanilla blast. The whole thing lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m a big fan of Islay Scotches, and while this one was out of the Speyside region, I’d put this one up against many of them. If you blindfolded one such enthusiast, it would not shock me if they guessed this was something out of Port Charlotte. Sure, it doesn’t have an age statement, but who cares? I loved this. You will, too. Buy one, because this takes a 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, June 28, 2021

Old Forester Straight Rye Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

When I took a tour of the Old Forester Distillery in Louisville, I found the tour itself was basic, although I have to admit they have stuff that you don't run into at other distilleries. Between the micro-cooperage and the all-black, steel, industrial rickhouse, it was fun. If you have a chance to go, do it.

But, this isn't a review of their distillery tour. Rather, it is a review of their Straight Rye Whiskey (sorry, Whisky, because Brown-Forman, the parent company, likes to spell it without the e). But I mention the distillery tour because this is the first time I was able to taste their Rye.  Made from a mash of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn, this is the first time in 40+ years that the Old Kentucky Distillery's Normandy Rye Whiskey recipe has seen the light of day. Brown-Forman acquired Old Kentucky in 1940 and the recipe eventually went away. Or, that's the backstory. You know how I feel about some of these backstories - everyone's great-grandpappy had some long-lost recipe that was discovered in an abandoned cupboard and resurrected to make the whiskey you're drinking today. True or not, this is a big step for Brown-Forman to create a unique American Rye and steer away from their standard mash. And, before you ask, yes, this is a completely different mash than sister company Jack Daniel's Rye.

There is no age statement, but we know it is at least two years old due to the Straight designation. And, while this is 100°, like their Old Forester Signature, this is not Bottled-in-Bond. The packaging is simple with a screw-top, metal closure. Retail is just over $20.00 depending on where you shop.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Rye appeared as a definite deep amber. It created a medium-thick rim which generated a thick curtain that slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A complex blend of oak, vanilla, and floral notes greeted me initially. As I continued to explore, I discovered toasted oak and cocoa. Below that was thick plum.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of rich vanilla and plum.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating.  The front of the palate was light, much lighter than I expected for 100°. I discerned brown sugar, allspice, and nutmeg. Mid-palate was more pronounced with toasted nuts, plum, and slight citrus. The back was even stronger with very heavy cocoa and dark chocolate.

Finish:  There was a deep finish if you are patient. Rye spice and cocoa begin the process. As it drops off, toasted oak and very long-lasting chocolate hang on. Then it falls off about a minute or so later.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one of those #RespectTheBottomShelf moments that makes me smile. First of all, this is very affordable for everyone. Secondly, there's more complexity than you'd guess from a budget whiskey. I found it fascinating that while the front of the palate started off so soft, it finished with a crescendo. It also drank more closely to barely-legal ryes such as Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond than something with a much higher rye content. I'm chalking that up to the malted barley, which is what produced all of the chocolate and cocoa notes. Not only did I enjoy this, but I enjoyed it so much that I bought a bottle at the distillery (something I rarely do). This one's a definite Bottle.  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.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Rye Review & Tasting Notes

Jack Daniel's has been around for what seems to be forever. In fact, they've not changed their mashbill since 1866, back when 14-year old Jasper "Jack" Daniel started his own distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, producing a charcoal-mellowed whiskey after learning his art from Reverend Dan Call and slave Nathan "Nearest" Green. Back then, the mash was 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye. That's remained unchanged through today.

Except in 2012, Jack Daniel's started tinkering around and released its Unaged Rye, using a mash of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley. That then led to Rested Rye in 2014. Neither were greeted with big accolades. But, then, in 2016, the Single Barrel Rye release started to turn heads. 

The Rye goes through the same Lincoln County Process (LCP) that its world-famous Tennessee Whisky does. That involves filtering newmake through ten feet of sugar maple charcoal prior to barreling in new, charred oak. This LCP is supposed to mellow the whiskey. 

As a single barrel whiskey, every release is going to be at least slightly different. It carries no age statement, although it is rumored to be between four and five years old. It is packaged at 94° (although barrel proof is newly released). A 750ml bottle runs around $55.00.

If you're thinking that $55.00 seems a lot for a four or so-year American whiskey, keep in mind that American Rye tends to mature faster than its Bourbon counterpart, and four years is plenty adequate in most cases.

Today I'm reviewing Barrel 18-5485 from rick L-23.  It was dumped on August 14, 2018. Is it any good? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious, so let's get to it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Rye was a bright, clear amber color. It left a very thin rim but generated fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Stewed fruits and a hint of mint started things off on the nose. Aromas of brown sugar and toasted oak was next. And then, strangely enough, I smelled corn. When I inhaled through my open lips, minty vanilla rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was soft and silky. I picked up no ethanol burn. The first flavor to hit my palate was sweet, creamy vanilla. The mint was absent. Mid-palate was rye spice and corn (again). On the back, it was muted oak. 

Finish:  As light as this whiskey was, it had a surprisingly long finish. Pepper and smoky oak started the show, and it ended with, and I can't believe I'm saying this, corn. Corn? Corn is only 18% of the mash. It blows my mind that corn would be a heavy player in something other than a barely-legal Rye.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This whiskey had a very interesting, appetizing nose. It had a nice mouthfeel. The palate was not complicated and lacked any real panache. The corn was baffling, making for a very different American Rye. As most people who follow me know, different is something that's typically appealing. However, different also has to be exciting. The heavy corn presence was distracting and, frankly, I found this Rye boring and not worth $55.00.  As such, it takes a Bust. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Woodford Reserve Very Fine Rare Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Woodford Reserve shouldn't need an introduction, despite being relatively new to the scene. Established in 1996 and owned by Brown-Forman, Woodford distills on what was the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, founded in 1812, and whose distillers include Jim Crow and E.H. Taylor, Jr. In 1878, the distillery was then renamed the Labrot & Graham Distillery. The distillery was then shuttered in 1918 due to Prohibition, where it remained vacant until 1935 when it was rebuilt. In 1941, Brown-Forman acquired the premises and ran the distillery until the 1960s before it was mothballed and sold to a local farmer. No distilling took place for many years, and in 1993 Brown-Forman repurchased the property and rebuilt the distillery once again.

The Master's Collection came about as a means for Woodford Reserve to pay homage to the discoveries and innovations that have taken place by master distillers over the distillery's storied past. This is the 15th year of The Master's Collection, all of them slated to never be repeated, and will hit shelves on December 1st. It will be known as Very Fine Rare Bourbon and marks a new milestone where this and all future releases will focus on modern innovations by Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall.

“The name Very Fine Rare Bourbon is a nod to the descriptors used by our ancestors to auction highly-aged Bourbon barrel lots. While Woodford Reserve will always honor the past, this Master’s Collection is about the present and future.” - Chris Morris

Very Fine Rare Bourbon carries no age statement, however, part of the blend contains the oldest Bourbon ever released by Woodford - 17 years - which is a nod to Chris being named Master Distiller back in 2003. I asked him what the youngest barrel was, and he replied 11 years. Additionally, he let me know there is at least one representative barrel for every year in-between except for 12. This Bourbon also will be the first time Elizabeth's name is on the hangtag. 

Very Fine Rare Bourbon is made from the same mash, the same 110° entry proof, the barrels rested in the same heat-cycled rickhouses, and when dumped proofed down to the same 90.4° as the standard Woodford Reserve. 

There were just shy of 300 barrels used in the batch, many of which were very short due to Woodford's average 18% per year angel's share. It will be available only in select US and global markets. Suggested retail for a 750ml bottle is $129.99, but your shopping experience may vary. When you go looking for it, don't bother seeking out the pot-still-shaped Master's Collection bottles of prior releases, that's been changed (you can see a photo below).

I'd like to thank Woodford Reserve for providing me a sample of Very Fine Rare Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is now time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this Bourbon is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Woodford Bourbon is presented as the color of a yellow sunset. Yeah, I know, that's a weird description, but that's what it looked like to me. It created a thick rim and fast, sticky legs that took forever to make it back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This Bourbon was very aromatic and fruity, so much so that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, sitting across the room, told me it smelled delicious and inquired what I poured. Plum, cherry, berries, and citrus mingled together. Hidden beneath the orchard of fruit were chocolate and clove. What was shockingly lacking was I smelled no wood whatsoever. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, I found spearmint and vanilla.

Palate:  As the whiskey crossed my lips, the mouthfeel was oily and viscous. There was nothing in terms of alcohol burn. On the front, I tasted butterscotch and orange peel. Come mid-palate, flavors of plum, berry, and white chocolate continued the sweet trend. On the back, wood finally made an appearance. It was toasted oak, and it mingled with almond, leather, tobacco leaf, and cocoa powder.

Finish:  The finish began with oven-roasted walnuts, and the toasted oak, leather, and cocoa from the back palate carried over. Flavors of sweet vanilla and clove rounded out for what was a long, drawn-out finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Woodford Very Find Rare Bourbon provided me a complex nose, palate, and finish that I thoroughly enjoyed. Some folks may complain that a $130.00 whiskey with no age statement is not worth the price. I'm not in that camp - for me, age is just a number. What matters is the whiskey inside the bottle and if I taste value for the investment. I would drink this all day long and wouldn't feel cheated. The Bourbon earns my coveted Bottle rating, and I believe you'll agree. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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