Showing posts with label Jim Beam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Beam. Show all posts

Monday, November 14, 2022

Booker's Batch 2022-03 "Kentucky Tea" Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


The Beam family is Bourbon royalty. It started back in the 1780s with Jacob Beam, who moved his family (and his still) to Kentucky. His son, David, took over the family business when he was 18. Then came his son, David M., who relocated the distillery to Nelson County. His youngest son, James, took the helm until Prohibition shut everything down. However, once Prohibition was repealed, James (who preferred to be called Jim) revived the family yeast and reopened his distillery in about 120 days at age 70.


Jim had a son who went by his nickname, Jere. Jere built a distillery in Bullitt County and introduced his family’s Bourbon to Europe. Unfortunately (or for us, fortunately), Jere had no children, so he passed the business to his nephew Frederick “Booker” Noe II. Booker was the first master distiller of Beam whiskey with a different last name. Booker was the man behind Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Booker’s.


His son, Frederick “Fred” Booker Noe III, is Beam’s current master distillery. Fred took the brands his father created worldwide. While doing so, he further expanded the Beam product line to include Devil’s Cut and Double Oak.


Fred has a son named Frederick “Freddie” Booker Noe IV, following in his footsteps. But Fred and Freddie aren’t alone on the distilling family tree of Beams. They own and operate various distilleries, but they're all family at the end of the day.


Today I’m sampling Booker’s 2022-03, lovingly called Kentucky Tea Batch by Fred. It comprises Bourbons made on six different production dates and barrels aged in six rickhouses. Booker’s is made from the traditional Beam mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley and aged in new American oak with a #4 char level. It carries a 7-year, 4-month, 14-day age statement, is uncut and unfiltered, and is bottled at 126.5°. A 750ml package has a suggested retail price of $89.99.


“This batch is named after Booker Noe’s signature drink, which he called Kentucky Tea. Some people flavor their water with tea leaves, but Booker loved adding flavor with his namesake bourbon. He’d take one part Booker’s and four parts water and enjoy it with dinner, typically a country ham or fish - he said you needed to sip the right proportion of Kentucky Tea to really appreciate the food.” – Booker’s Bourbon


Before I get to the #DrinkCurious part, I must thank Booker’s for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Kentucky Tea presented as a true reddish-amber. The finest of rims formed widely-spaced, thick legs that rolled down the side and back to the pool.


Nose: I smelled a lot of oak mixed with a heavy dollop of caramel, honey-roasted peanuts, nutmeg, and smoke. When I drew the air into my mouth, a wave of butterscotch flowed across my tongue.


Palate:  The texture was silky, with thick, rich caramel and bold vanilla on the front of my palate. The middle featured creamy peanut butter that felt like it stuck to the roof of my mouth. A blast of clove, charred oak, and black pepper evened things out on the back.


Finish:  There was no “burn” to speak of; it was warming but just that – warm. Spice notes of clove and black pepper remained, joined by almond, peanut, and smoky oak. There was no need to rush the next sip because those flavors refused to leave.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Believe it or not, this was the first batch of Booker’s that I’ve tried since its rebranding (of sorts). This Bourbon drinks way under its stated proof; if I didn’t know better, I would have guessed between 100° and 105°. For almost 127°, there wasn’t even a tingling on my hard palate.


This whiskey was uncomplicated, and that’s not a bad thing. As far as a value statement is concerned, its $89.99 delivered. I’m not a fan of traditional tea, but as far as Kentucky Tea Batch goes, I’m all in with 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, October 7, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Bourbon (2022) Review & Tasting Notes

Last year, I had a chance to review the 2021 Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Bourbon. It was fantastic dram and showed another facet of what Master Blender Joe Beatrice can do. When Barrell announced the release of 2022 Gray Label Bourbon, I was curious how it would differ; and that it has.


Gray Label Bourbon starts with variously-aged distillates from Indiana (MGP/Ross & Squibb), Tennessee (George Dickel), and Kentucky (Jim Beam). Whereas the 2021 edition (Release 4) was made of only three mashbills, the 2022 version (Release 5) comprises five. Those mashbills are undisclosed, but they should be familiar regardless due to the sources.


Here’s where things get interesting. After Joe and his team blended the five, they were placed in finishing barrels made from 36-month air-dried staves. But, those weren’t any ordinary staves; they were from barrels that held previous versions of Gray Label Bourbon.


Like all things Barrell, Gray Label is bottled at cask strength which, in this case, is 100.58°. And, like all things Gray Label, it has a suggested price of $249.99. What is unusual is that Release 5 carries no age statement, whereas Releases 1 through 4 were 15 years. I have no insight as to why the age statement was dropped, but it is a curiosity.


Now that this year’s Gray Label Bourbon background is known let’s delve into the unknown and #DrinkCurious. But, before I do, I must thank Barrell for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Gray Label Bourbon presented as burnt umber as it formed a medium rim. Thin droplets formed and slid back to the pool.


Nose: The nose carried a robust fruity fragrance of plum, cherry, pineapple, stewed peach, and apple pie filling. It was accompanied by sweet vanilla and ginger. Inhaling through my lips brought a blast of cherry vanilla ice cream.


Palate:  You’d think that at 100°+, this Bourbon would have a punch, and like me, you’d be wrong. I found the texture creamy as the front of my palate plucked ripe melons, plantains, and vanilla cream. Those sweet fruits vanished as the whiskey crossed the middle of my palate. Instead, I tasted nutmeg, coconut, and thick molasses. Those flavors vaporized when my back encountered peanut butter, honey, and oak.


Finish: Clove, oak, peanut butter, and nutmeg stuck to my tongue while black tea and green grape hugged my throat, creating a slow, building finish that, like the palate, hit a crescendo before falling off a cliff.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Barrell has slammed another hit out of the park with Gray Label Bourbon. I loved its complexity on both the nose and palate, how flavors took turns rather than simply melding, the luxurious mouthfeel, and the lovely finish. If I had $250 burning a hole in my pocket, I’d grab a Bottle and walk away thrilled. However, this price eclipses what the average whiskey drinker can spring, and as such, like the other Gray Label whiskeys, my final rating is a 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.



Sunday, August 21, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Batch 033 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Barrell Craft Spirits is one of the more consistently excellent blenders around. That’s not to suggest it is perfect at what it does, but if you were going to take a chance and risk purchasing a bottle without knowing anything about it, you’d likely be on the winning side of that bet.


While the art of blending isn’t simple, Barrell makes things less complicated. Everything it produces is barrel-proof. If you think something is too strong, you get to change things up by adding water. That’s on you; Barrell won’t do that on your behalf.


Barrell doesn’t get fancy with names. Its highest-end whiskeys are Gold Label, and the next level is Gray Label. Then, you have a few specialty blends, such as Seagrass, Dovetail, etc., but most labels say something like Batch 033 (which is the Bourbon I’m reviewing today).


Batch 033 is a Bourbon that carries a five-year age statement. That’s the youngest whiskey in the batch. The oldest is nine years, and there are six, seven, and eight-year Bourbons as well. Barrell sourced these Bourbons distilled from Indiana (MGP), Tennessee (George Dickel), and Kentucky (Jim Beam). Both high-rye and high-corn Bourbons were procured, then blended into two sets of barrels that rested an additional two months. Barrell then blended those to make what’s in the bottle.


It weighs in at 116.6° and carries an MSRP of $90.00. Typically, Barrell whiskeys are easy to find at good liquor stores around the country.


Will this be another winner for Barrell? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. Before I do so, I must thank Barrell for providing a sample of Batch 033 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Deep and dark, the burnt umber liquid left a medium-thick rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass. Sticky droplets remained after an initial release of thick legs.


Nose:  A rich blast of corn and caramel escaped my glass. Plum and cherry punched through, and getting beyond those aromas, I found almond, pecan, and oak. Plum and cherry rolled across my tongue as I pulled the air through my lips.


Palate:  A thick, creamy texture filled every nook and cranny of my mouth and warmed my throat. A wave of vanilla, plum and baked apple smashed the front of my palate. Flavors of grapefruit, lime, and nuts formed the middle, while chocolate, allspice, and oak rounded the back.


Finish:  The long, lingering finish was ripe with chocolate, oak, vanilla, allspice, lime, limestone, and oak. By the third sip, the warming sensation in my throat subsided.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Despite the complicated listing of barrels used for Batch 033, the components were easily discerned. The nuttiness of Beam, the minerality of Dickel, and the classic fruitiness of MGP shone through. Batch 033 is a welcome addition to my whiskey library, and I believe you will walk away happy after buying a Bottle. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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



Monday, March 28, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Batch 032 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Barrell Craft Spirits is one of those non-distilling producers (NDP) that causes me a little giddyup in my step when a sample winds up on my doorstep. Barrell is a Louisville, Kentucky-based NDP that doesn’t just source a barrel; they take various barrels and blend them to something (hopefully) special. I’ve been impressed with what Joe Beatrice and his crew created for the most part.


The most recent release is Batch 032, a Bourbon married of barrels from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. Who distills those? While Barrell won’t disclose that information, I’ve long suspected the Kentucky distillery is Jim Beam, Tennessee is George Dickel, and Indiana is, without a doubt, MGP. I’ve published this repeatedly; Barrell has never corrected me.


“Batch 032 began with a balance of two sets of barrels: a selection of 5 and 6-year-old barrels with a creamy and tropical profile and a selection of 6, 7, and 10-year-old barrels vatted for their complex, old, woody character. These two sets of barrels were slowly blended over three months. A small group of spice-driven 7-year-old barrels with notes of cinnamon toast, coffee bean, and chocolate were then carefully added to complete the blend. The result is a decadent and rich bourbon with layers of spice and nuttiness.”Barrell Craft Spirits


One thing I respect Barrell for is everything they produce is at cask-strength. Nothing is proofed down. If you want to change things up, you can add a few drops of water yourself, but Barrell won’t do that for you. Batch 032 weighs in at 115.34°, and you can expect to pay about $89.00 for a 750ml package.


I thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample of Batch 032 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious and taste how it fares.


Appearance: Poured neat in my trusty Glencairn Glass, Barrell Batch 032 presented as burnt umber. It created a fragile rim that released thicker, slow legs to rejoin the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: From the moment I cracked the lid, a waft of old oak hit my nostrils. Upon closer inspection, I found cedar, cherry, plum, and caramel, which then became floral before spicy notes of cinnamon and mint kicked in. When I pulled the air into my mouth, vanilla and caramel caressed my tongue.


Palate: Many of the Barrell Bourbons I’ve tried were oily. Batch 032 was different. The texture was creamy with a medium weight. The first flavors to engage my palate were cinnamon spice, vanilla, and almond pastry. The back offered a taste of clove, charred oak, and ginger spice.


What happened to the middle? That was almost transitionary between the softer front and spicier back.


Finish:  Once I swallowed, the finish was soft and spicy before ramping up to big, bold spices. Cinnamon, clove, and ginger led to a kiss of citrus before being completely subdued by freshly-cracked black pepper. It was a ramping experience.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I had fun with Batch 032. The middle was almost frustrating as I took sip after sip, trying to find something that would stand out. It is also one of those dangerous whiskeys; there is no way you’d guess this was 115+° - it went down way too easily. And, because I attempted to nail down the middle, I got a tad buzzed. If you like rye-forward Bourbons (I do), you will go ga-ga over Batch 032. It is a true representation of 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.



Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I’m no stranger to Barrell Craft Spirits. With its Master Blender Joe Beatrice and his team, they bring us (always) barrel-proof whiskeys that go beyond the average sourced offerings. Sometimes the whiskeys are US-based, occasionally Canadian, sometimes from other venues, but you can count on what’s in the bottle to be decidedly different from what you’re used to.


Recently, Barrell introduced us to its Gray Label whiskeys. These were premium offerings, above and beyond the “standard” releases. Made from older stocks, they commanded a premium price tag. And, now, there’s something called Gold Label, which is a step above the Gray.


Today’s review is Barrell Gold Label Bourbon. What’s inside is sourced from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. You can read that (in my opinion) as George Dickel, Jim Beam, and MGP, respectively. These are 16- and 17-year stocks! Barrell opted for four lots of barrels:

  • Cherry-bombs
  • Nut/oak-forward
  • High-proof
  • Milk chocolate

The exciting thing is that the last group was finished in toasted virgin oak barrels.


“Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Bourbon is a blend of 16- and 17-year-old straight bourbons. Barrels for this release were selected from four different collections: cherry bomb barrels with a rich mouthfeel, nutty oak-forward barrels, high proof and high complexity barrels, and barrels with pronounced milk chocolate notes. The last group underwent a secondary maturation in toasted virgin American oak casks before being added to this intricate and seductive blend.” – Barrell Craft Spirits.

The resulting product is a Bourbon that weighs in at 113.54° and the price – hold onto your seats – is $499.99. On the plus side, it comes with a red gift box.


I want to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample of Gold Label Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. That means it is time to #DrinkCurious and figure out what this is all about.


Appearance: Drank neat from my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon was deep and dark, the color of burnt umber. It took an effort to create a rim, and when it did, it was micro-thin but led to long, wavy legs.


Nose: Crème Brulee was the first thing I smelled, and it almost punched me in the nose. Beneath that were toasted marshmallow, hazelnut, almond, oak, cherry pie filling, and apple pie filling (yeah, I had to come back several times to confirm those last two). When I drew the aroma in my mouth, it was like sucking on chocolate-covered cherries.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and thick. Caramel, vanilla, peanut, and leather ruled the front. The middle featured fresh mint, cherry, plum, and berry. I tasted ginger, oak, cocoa, and tobacco on the back.


Finish:  This was one of those never-ending finishes. Sure, it ended eventually, but it seemed to run forever. Mint, oak, black pepper, ginger, chocolate, and marshmallow cream stuck around for a captivating experience.  There was no Flintstone vitamin quality from the Dickel portion. This is one of those sneaky bastards – it drinks much lower than its stated proof, but, dang, it makes up for it with a 2x4 once it catches up.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ll get this out of the way. I’ve never paid $500.00 for a Bourbon, and I don’t see myself doing that anytime soon. That’s me. Barrell Gold Label Bourbon is stupendous. It is gorgeous. It is delicious. It is amazing. If you have $500.00 burning a hole in your pocket, this would be a nice investment. It would be a real treat for those of us who have lighter wallets to try this at a 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, January 3, 2022

Stellum Black Label Rye and Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes


If you’ve ever been curious about an American Express card, there are some basic levels. Green is for the average user. Above that is gold, then above that is platinum. And that’s it, right? Well, not exactly.


You see, beyond the platinum card that any peasant can apply for is something called American Express Black. This card is so exclusive that there’s no way to apply for it. The only way to get your hands on one is via an invitation, and you have to charge between $250,000 and $450,000 a year to maintain it.


Meant to give a similar aura of exclusivity is Stellum Black Label. You don’t need an invitation to get your hands on it, but it is pretty limited. Stellum offers both a Bourbon and a Rye, and in each case, they begin with the original stocks of Stellum and then “fold in” older whiskeys.


“For Stellum Black, we maintained the soul of Stellum while creating a new dimension of flavor by adding reserve barrels from our stocks. We’ve refined this layering technique over time which produces whiskeys focused on both immediate flavor and a long-developed complexity. The result is an entirely new set of whiskeys that has its roots firmly planted in the inaugural whiskeys.”Joe Beatrice, founder of Barrell Craft Spirits


I’m reviewing both the Bourbon and Rye today. Like anything else out of Stellum Spirits or Barrell Craft Spirits, these are both cask strength whiskeys, both sourced from Indiana (MGP), Tennessee (George Dickel), and Kentucky (Jim Beam). Both have a suggested retail of $99.99.  Unlike the standard releases, Stellum Black Label will be allocated nationally. Both are non-chill filtered.


Before I get started on the tasting notes, I’d like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for sending me a sample of both in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious and learn all about these.

I’ll begin with the Bourbon. There are three MGP components: two are high rye with 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley, and the other 99% corn and 1% malted barley. The Beam and Dickel components are undisclosed, but they’re older than the MGP. It is packaged at 109.22°.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Black Label Bourbon presented as caramel in color. It formed a thicker than expected rim and slow, lumbering legs.


Nose: An intense bouquet of cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange peel was enticing. As I drew the aroma into my mouth, cherry vanilla rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  An oily, full-bodied texture greeted my mouth. At the front, I tasted vanilla, caramel, leather, and nuts. The middle transitioned to plum, coconut, and cocoa powder. I found tobacco leaf, cinnamon spice, and old oak on the back.


Finish:  A very long, warming finish consisted of plum, nuts, orange zest, caramel, old oak, leather, tobacco leaf, and cinnamon spice. It didn’t even try to hide the proof, as my hard palate tingled almost immediately. However, the caramel stuck around the longest.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  It was reasonably easy to pick out the Beam component, but less so with the Dickel and MGP, which was shocking, especially considering how much of the blend was out of Indiana. But, the telltale nuttiness was also something I looked for, so perhaps there was some subtle power of self-suggestion? The more I sipped it, the less I felt the proof. It never became something that drank under its stated proof, but the numbing factor ceased and allowed me to concentrate on other things.  I enjoyed this, and I could somehow feel this felt older than the Stellum Bourbon I reviewed last year.


Stellum Black Label Bourbon competes with its sibling, Barrell Bourbon, and they both cost about the same. I’m happy to toss a Bottle rating at it based upon that.

Next up is the Rye. The majority component is 95% rye and 5% malted barley from MGP. The smaller portions come from the others. It is packaged at 114.26°.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Rye appeared as orange amber. It created a thinner rim that yielded slow, fat tears.


Nose: Caramel leaped from the glass and smacked me in the face. Beneath it were candied fruits, almonds, vanilla, and cinnamon spice. As I pulled the air into my mouth, orange cream danced across my tongue.


Palate:  A soft, silky mouthfeel greeted my palate. The front offered very dark chocolate and creamy caramel. Mint, clove, and dill were on the middle, while dry oak, black pepper, and a vast amount of new leather were on the back.


Finish:  I found the finish to build itself into a giant crescendo before plateauing, and then it just chugging along. Dark chocolate, dill, clove, and caramel started things off before leather and tannins came and left me making “thuck” noises with my tongue.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  It isn’t that often I come across a whisky that is so dry it sucks the moisture from your mouth. That’s a different sensation that, for whatever reason, always makes me go for another sip, which makes no sense because, in the back of my mind, I know it is going to dry my mouth again. Yet, the flavors are lovely together, and I enjoyed the extraordinarily long finish. A Bottle rating for sure, it is an experience worth experiencing.


Final Thoughts:  Given the option between Bourbon and Rye, I tend to gravitate to Rye. In the case of Stellum Black Label, I enjoyed the Bourbon more. That’s not to discount the Rye; it was just surprising. I had to taste them both again just to make sure.


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, November 19, 2021

Barrell Bourbon Batch 031 Review & Tasting Notes


I’ve had the opportunity to review several whiskeys from Barrell Craft Spirits. Most of them have been enjoyable with a few exceptions.


If you’re unfamiliar with Barrell Craft Spirits (or BCS), it is a Non-Distilling Producer (NDP) out of Louisville, Kentucky that sources barrels from various distilleries from around the world, and then blend them into something special. And, BCS knows what it is doing. What it offers isn’t inexpensive (usually retailing about $90 or so), but is also far less than several other blenders that crank up the price well into three figures. It has an entry-level brand called Stellum Spirits.


“We’re progressive in our ideas about blending, but traditionalists when it comes to the identity of bourbon. We never add any coloring, flavoring, or water. Instead, we release all of our limited-edition bourbons totally pure, without chill filtration and at barrel strength to replicate the incredible experience of drinking directly from the cask.” – Barrell Craft Spirits


Today I’m sipping on Bourbon Batch 031. It is a blend of Bourbons from three states:  Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. As such, we’re looking at MGP, (likely) Jim Beam, and George Dickel.  These straight Bourbons are 6, 7, 10, 15, and 16 years old. There is a bit of 99% corn Bourbon, a smidge of wheated Bourbon, and the rest of traditional recipes. Like everything BCS, it is bottled at barrel strength which, in this case, is 111.2° (55.6% ABV). You can expect to pay about $89.99 for a 750ml package.


Before I #DrinkCurious, I’d like to thank BCS for providing me a sample of Batch 031 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Batch 031 was deep amber. It created a thinner rim that generated long, slow legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  A complex nose of orange peel, apple, date, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and oak forced me to keep sniffing the inside of my glass. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, a vanilla-peppermint combination rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The texture was thick, creamy, and full-bodied. On the front of my palate, I tasted berry, plum, orange zest, and rye spice. The middle featured ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and caramel. Then, on the back, I experienced cola, marshmallow frosting, dry oak, and black pepper.


Finish:  This was one of those Energizer Bunny finishes. It was sweet with marshmallow frosting and plum transitioned with cola before becoming spicy with dry oak, ginger spice, allspice, dry oak, and black pepper. It left a sizzle on my tongue without hitting my hard palate.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Batch 031 had one of the most complex noses I’ve experienced. It took me many minutes to discern everything. The mouthfeel was lovely, which led to a fruity, spicy, sweet palate and finish. I really liked this one, and the price is an easy one to swallow. I am happy to convey 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.


Monday, September 20, 2021

Barrell Bourbon Gray Label Review & Tasting Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Jim Beam Devil's Cut Review & Tasting Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 10, 2021

Barrell Bourbon Batch 030 Review & Tasting Notes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

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