Showing posts with label Single Barrel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Single Barrel. Show all posts

Friday, February 26, 2021

Border Bourbon Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond Review & Tasting Notes

If I had to choose a favorite niche of whiskey, it would be a no-brainer with Bottled-in-Bond.  I love it because there is some guarantee of quality, at least in the production of it.  This was, not too long ago, a forgotten, overlooked category and everything was dirt cheap. Now, Bottled-in-Bond is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and with that, there is an increase in the average price. That's not to say you can't still #RespectTheBottomShelf with some affordable gems, but they're not getting the attention they deserve.

45th Parallel Distillery is located in New Richmond, WI.  I've reviewed several whiskeys out of this distillery, and for the most part, I enjoy what they slap a label on. They distill both their own whiskeys as well as contract distilling for other brands. The philosophy is one of taking things slowly. 

"When you understand that time is a factor you cannot control, you focus on the ones you can. Temperature and humidity are two very important elements in the maturation process. Many try to speed up the aging process by using higher temperatures and using smaller barrels. This results in the hard and disproportionate amount of tannins. There is no substitute for time. It is a fundamental part to achieve high-quality products.

Today many distillers care more about maturing their spirit quickly with wood extracts. A traditional slow maturation process results in a full-bodied flavor that can only be accomplished from years in high-quality wood barrels.

Time is constant and cannot be controlled. We don’t try to." - 45th Parallel Distillery

My review today is of its Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon.  Not only is it bonded, but it is also a single barrel. Barrel 196 was purchased in its entirety by Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, WI.  It comes from a mash of corn, rye, wheat, and barley, and is then placed in a medium-char, Ozark white oak barrel. The staves were seasoned for three years prior to being coopered.  It then rested 68 months (5 years, 8 months).  Because it is bonded, it is diluted to 100°.  Retail is $42.99.

I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample of this Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious and find out if this one is any good.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as honey brown in color. While a thinner rim was created, thick, heavy, slow legs worked their way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Corn and vanilla were the first aromas I discovered. But, they were joined by mint, nutmeg, and cinnamon. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, caramel rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  An oily, medium-bodied mouthfeel gave me the impression this drank below its stated proof. On the front, I tasted only creamy caramel. The middle expanded to milk chocolate, almond, and corn. On the back, flavors of black pepper, clove, and rye spice were easy to pick out.

Finish:  This whiskey has one of the most confusing finishes I've ever come across. It started as incredibly long. The next sip it was medium-short. A subsequent sip brought the length back. One more it was medium-short. But, the confusion didn't stop there. It began with a slow ramping of spice. Another taste would bring out sweet notes without spice. Additional attempts kept cycling between the two. I was able to discern clove, tobacco, and black pepper that would tango with vanilla, toasted coconut, and toasted oak.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you've read my reviews for any length of time, I am fascinated with whiskeys that offer something distinct. The finish on this one absolutely fits that bill. This was delightful all the way around, the mind-games notwithstanding. The price is not a major factor and as such, I'm dropping my Bottle rating on it.  You'll enjoy the experience from start to finish. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Niemuth's Southside Market is located at 2121 S Oneida Street in Appleton.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Obtanium 5-Year Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Despite the fact I've been writing about Obtainium whiskeys for the last year, I've never really thought about what obtainium means. Curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up. It is a slang term that represents things that have been taken or stolen that others have discarded. When you consider what Cat's Eye Distillery does, the name is fitting (no, they don't steal). They've been grabbing up MGP Light Whiskey, which is something many non-distilling producers (NDPs) have overlooked.

Today I'm reviewing Obtanium 5-Year Single Barrel Bourbon out of Cat's Eye. This, too, is MGP-distillate, although which Bourbon mash is undisclosed. It is from barrel SC-88, which aged five years and is bottled at 118.3°, which is barrel strength.  It is non-chill filtered. You can expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank the Wisconsin distributor for Cat's Eye for a sample of this Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the color presented as orange-amber. It generated a heavy rim that collapsed into thick, fast legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I found the nose corn-forward, along with aromas of nutmeg, caramel, and boysenberry. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, salted caramel rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was coating and full-bodied. On the front, I tasted caramel and corn. On the mid-palate, some complexity was added with black cherry, cocoa powder, and almond. The back consisted of rye spice, clove, and toasted oak.

Finish:  The longer finish offered toasted oak, nutmeg, rye spice, and more of that salted caramel. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While not an overly complicated Bourbon, this was very tasty. I loved how the caramel switched between classic and salted and then blended with the rye spice and oak at the end. It also doesn't drink at its stated proof, I would have guessed it to be about 15 or so points lower, which made it an easy drinker. Considering everything, including the bang for the buck, I have no issues handing over my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers!

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Clover Single Barrel Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


A four-leaf clover has (obviously) four leaves. Each leaf is said to hold four different meanings:  Hope, faith, love, and luck.  To Bobby Jones, those four words were his life.

What's that? You have no idea who Bobby Jones is?  Born on St. Patrick's Day in 1901, he was one of the world's premier golfers. He was the only one to ever win the original grand-slam. He was a scholar. He obtained degrees in English from Harvard, in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and was admitted to law school at Emory University, He was a war hero. When presented with a ceremonial command during World War II, he declined and instead went to Normandy Beach as an infantry captain. He was a mentor. Bobby Jones set the standard of what a sportsman should be. Ethics were important to him, so much so that he wound up losing a golf tournament by a single stroke because he noticed he earned a penalty when none was assigned. He made such an impression that Emory has the Jones Program in Ethics, and in 1955, the USGA created the Bob Jones Award to recognize distinguished sportsmen in golf who emulate his spirit, personal quality, and attitude. Jones passed away in 1971.

"Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots - but you have to play the ball where it lies." - Bobby Jones

The Clover is not just another celebrity whiskey. With Jones gone, there is no ego to feed. Instead, The Clover was founded to sustain the legacy of golf's greatest gentleman and champion. There are three expressions under the umbrella of The Bobby Jones Whiskey Collection: Straight Bourbon, Straight Rye, and Straight Tennessee Whisky. All three are single barrels, and while not overly easy to obtain, they can be purchased from a variety of golf course gift shops and online retailers. A handful of retailers also have them available for purchase. The Clover provides a link on its website with a listing of which courses carry it.

Today I'm reviewing the Straight Rye.  It is bottled by Piedmont Distillers (the creators of Midnight Moon) but was actually distilled in Indiana (meaning, MGP), this is a four-year-old single barrel that is diluted to 91°. It is described as a high-rye mashbill which would translate to MGP's 95/5 recipe. Expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank The Clover for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  I'd also like to compliment them on the attractive package.

Appearance:  While the included glassware was gorgeous, consistency is vital to me and as such, I tasted this in my Glencairn glass. It appeared as caramel in color and offered a thick rim with sticky, fat droplets that took their time falling back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  As I opened the bottle, the fragrance was immediately noticeable. Mint, citrus, cherry, and brown sugar were simple to pick out. The toasted oak was less so, and beneath everything were soft, floral notes. When I took the vapor into my mouth, cherry vanilla rolled over my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and had a medium body. On the tip of my palate, flavors of cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar gave it a sweet, slightly spicy tingle. The middle was cola, dark chocolate, and almond. On the back, I tasted black cherry, rye spice, and toffee.

Finish:  Originally, I thought the finish was medium-to-long, but as I continued to sip, it grew in length. Black pepper, leather, and dry oak were the first qualities, then rye spice and cocoa powder followed.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Clover is very much an MGP rye, with the single barrel giving it some uniqueness. This rye is not overwhelming and is something that could easily be sipped after a round of golf, even on a hot summer day. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the price is quite fair especially considering it is marketed to golfers. All of that translates to a hole-in-one and I'm happy to award it my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Monday, December 28, 2020

Backbone Bourbon: "Unicorn Hunter" and CWBS Reviews & Tasting Notes


Back in January, I wrote about a store pick called Unicorn Slayer.  It was selected by The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, Wisconsin. I had assisted in that pick, and it was one of those mind-blowing ones that resonate with you for years. At the time, I stated Unicorn Slayer was one of the five best barrel picks I've been involved with.

Today, I'm reviewing one called Unicorn Hunter. It was also picked by The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for Niemuith's, but this time, I was not part of the selection committee. However, the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club did ask me to review it for them, which I'm happy to do.

Unicorn Hunter is distilled by MGP, and it is bottled under the Backbone Bourbon brand. Like Unicorn Slayer, this is a barrel-proof, uncut, single barrel Bourbon. It is distilled from the same 70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley mash. Unlike its predecessor, which was 7.5 years old, Unicorn Hunter is 6 years and a month. It is 117.1° versus 119.3°.  To be frank, two points isn't going to make a lot of difference. You'll find this only at Niemuth's and one of the 168 bottles yielded will set you back $64.99, which is less expensive than Unicorn Slayer was.

I'd like to thank The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for providing me a sample in exchange for my honest, no-strings-attached review. Let's #DrinkCurious and get this taken care of.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Unicorn Hunter presented as chestnut in color with amazing clarity. A thin rim was created, and it generated wavy legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine but also sticky drops that did not.

Nose:  An aromatic combination of mint, menthol, and stone fruit was easy to pick up. As I continued to sniff around, I detected berries and dark chocolate. When I drew in the vapor through my mouth, a wave of cherry vanilla ran across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily and coated everywhere with ease, and was full-bodied. Up at the front, I experienced a sweet and fruity punch of berries and cherry syrup with dark chocolate. In the middle, I tasted rye spice and toffee. Then, on the back, it was coffee, clove, and oak.

Finish:  A blend of charred oak, coffee, cinnamon, and black pepper lasted several minutes before falling off. Cherry syrup stuck around. There was a distinct Indiana hug about it, but despite the proof, it couldn't be described as hot or burn

Bottle, Bar, or BustUnicorn Hunter was tasty as hell and a very easy sipper. Just to get it out of the way, it takes a Bottle rating and if you missed out on Unicorn Slayer, don't make the same mistake. Saying that, between the two, and I am probably biased, I preferred the predecessor. But, you aren't finding that on the shelf.

But Wait, There's More...

Now, in an interesting turn of events, The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club provided me a sample of another Backbone pick, this time for the Central Wisconsin Bourbon Society. It, too, is six years old and also retails for $64.99, and bottled at 120.9°.

Appearance:  The color was a slightly deeper chestnut than Unicorn Hunter. The rim was heavier, but not thick, the legs were similar, but lacked the sticky droplets.

Nose:  The very first thing I picked up was sawdust, which, interestingly enough, was the first thing I picked out of Unicorn Slayer last year. I smelled toasted oak and cocoa powder, mint, and a brush of cinnamon. Breathing the fumes in through my lips led me to uncover vanilla.

Palate:  An airy mouthfeel was a complete contrast to Unicorn Hunter. The body was closer to a medium than full. Caramel and cherry came out swinging. Clove, rye spice, and char hit me mid-palate, with cinnamon, black pepper, and dry oak on the back. This was, undoubtedly, much spicier than Unicorn Hunter.

Finish: I found the CWBS pick to have a longer finish than Unicorn Hunter. It was made up of cocoa powder, barrel char, caramel, and mint. It didn't have the same Indiana hug that Unicorn Hunter did, but it did leave my tongue tingling. As I was considering that, I found myself tasting dark chocolate.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The spice focus of the CWBS pick was interesting and much different than my other experiences with Backbone Bourbon. There was enough going on here to keep me paying attention. I was particularly enchanted by the sawdust aroma because it reminded me so much of Unicorn Slayer. There is no reason to not pick one up, and the price is certainly fair. Add it all up and you get a Bottle rating from me. 

So, between Unicorn Hunter and the CWBS pick, which did I prefer?  I enjoyed them both, but Unicorn Hunter edged out the CWBS pick, mostly because I preferred the fruity flavors on the former. Either, however, would leave you happy. Cheers!

Niemuth's Southside Market is located at 2121 S. Oneida Street in Appleton.

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

Wisconsin's own Great Northern Rye and New Richmond Rye Reviews & Tasting Notes


I was recently approached by the folks at Neimuth's Southside Market in Appleton to review a few of their store picks:  Great Northern Rye Dapper and Richmond Rye Lil'Nog'n.  As such, today's review will be a twofer.  As a matter of full disclosure, I was provided samples of each in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews.

Great Northern Rye Dapper

Great Northern Distilling is located in Plover, which is just outside of Stevens Point. Founded in 2014 by its president and head-distiller Brian Cummings, Great Northern sources everything locally and is a big supporter of transparency. He started with distilling rum, then potato vodka, gin, and finally, whiskey.

Our rye whiskey is made in an old east coast style, reminiscent of a Maryland style rye. Different than a Kentucky rye, we use a higher proportion of raw rye grain, rye malt rather than barley malt which gives a more savory rye flavor rather than the sharpness of the barley, and just a touch of corn to round out the edges. - Great Northern Distilling

In the case of Dapper, it is a 4-year, 4-month old single barrel, bottled at 96°, and a 750ml will set you back $52.99.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Dapper presented as deep amber in color. It left a medium rim that created slow, fat legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A jab of caramel was the first thing I smelled. As I continued to explore, I found oak and a big blast of mint. Underneath those was a floral perfume. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the floral quality continued.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and oily. It started off on the front as sweet with a burst of caramel, cherry, and floral notes, then at mid-palate, it got very spicy with rye, mint, and oak.  On the back, I tasted leather, clove, char, and coffee.

Finish:  A long (very long) finish was both smoky and spicy. The smoke started off mild and then built quickly. Once it climaxed, rye spice and cinnamon took over. That then became leather and clove, and finally ended with dark roast coffee that stuck around several minutes.

Bottle, Bar, or BustDapper drinks much higher than its stated proof thanks to how spicy it is. That's not a negative, rather, it is an observation. I enjoyed this, it was interesting, and my favorite part was the finish, particularly the dark roast coffee at the end. Dapper earns a Bottle rating from me.

New Richmond Rye Lil' Nog'n

Richmond Rye is distilled by 45th Parallel Distillery out of New Richmond. That's just south of the Minnesota border on the 45th parallel. The 45th is considered the "halfway" point between the equator and north pole. It was founded in 2007 by Paul Werni, it remains family-owned, with a goal of distilling small-batch spirits. Werni started with vodka, then moved onto whiskeys. But, he was contract distilling, with his most widely-recognized client being J. Henry & Sons Wisconsin Straight Bourbon. Then, in 2013, he launched New Richmond Rye, and the rest is history.

Werni's philosophy is one of taking his time to make a quality product.

Today many distillers care more about maturing their spirit quickly with wood extracts. A traditional slow maturation process results in a full-bodied flavor that can only be accomplished from years in high-quality wood barrels. - 45th Parallel Distillery

New Richmond Rye is a 65% rye mash with the remainder being corn and malted barley. Entry proof was 116°.  In the case of Lil' Nog'n, it goes a step further - Barrel #134 is a Bottled-in-Bond single barrel, aged for 5 years and 5 months. Like any other Bottled-in-Bond spirit, it weighs in at 100°, and a 750ml is priced at $42.99.

AppearanceIn my Glencairn glass, Lil' Nog'n offered a deep, mahogany color. It provided a thick rim and heavy legs that came down like a curtain. 

Nose:  Caramel and mint were the two dominant aromas. Sawdust, cherry, plum, and cinnamon tagged along. When I inhaled through my mouth, vanilla ran across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and had a medium body. Flavors of crème fresh, plum, and nutmeg were on the front. As it moved across my palate, I tasted cinnamon and brown sugar. The back consisted of rye spice, toasted oak, and the slightest dusting of char.

Finish:  A long, spicy finish featured cinnamon red hots, mint, nutmeg, and dry oak. 

Bottle, Bar, or BustLil' Nog'n drinks at its stated proof. I found this one fascinating, and I understand the reason for its name - it had all the flavors you'd find in eggnog (without the texture, which some people find off-putting). As for me, I love eggnog, it is a treat I look forward to each winter, and, quite frankly, this one is unique. This takes a very easy Bottle rating.

Final Verdict:  The natural question is, Which of the two did I prefer? These are both delicious ryes, full of character and flavor, but I found Lil' Nog'n came out on top. In either case, you'll wind up with a winner. Cheers!

Niemuth's Southside Market is located at 2021 S. Oneida Street in Appleton.

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2020

Stable Rock Horsethief Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I relish the opportunity to discover new distilleries. If something is completely off the radar, that's something that grabs my full attention.  Sure, what they have to offer may not be their own distillate, what they sell may not even be good, but it is still exciting. I am always curious about what will happen down the road.  Will they be successful? Will they grow? Will they be able to keep customers happy when they switch from sourced distillate to their own?

In Wisconsin, I've been blessed to visit several of these newcomers. Some have enjoyed tremendous success, others haven't yet caught on.  But, one distillery that just opened this summer is Stable Rock Winery & Distillery in Jefferson.  If you're familiar with Lewis Station Winery in Lake Mills, Stable Rock is its sister operation. Owned by Rob and Michelle Lewis, Stable Rock's property is a historical landmark with a colorful past.  The building, nestled against the Rock River, was erected in 1903 as the Boll's Livery & Blacksmith Shop at 123 Milwaukee Street. 

In 1921, Boll bought a Ford Omnibus and ran the Jefferson Bus Line. Then, he ran an auto livery service from the property. Shortly thereafter, Boll passed away and his son auctioned it off. It then became a Buick garage, and in 1931 AO Pop Seeds took it over until the 1960s. Afterward, it was the home to several restaurants and bars before the building was abandoned and fell into disrepair in 2016. Rob and Michelle saved the building from destruction when they agreed to buy and renovate it, finally opening the Winery and Distillery this past summer.

Just released from Stable Rock is Horsethief 5-Year Single Barrel Bourbon.  We can do the math and figure out that if Stable Rock just opened this summer, then there's no way they have a five-year Bourbon from their own distillate. Rob considered sourcing from Dickel in Tennessee, an undisclosed Kentucky distillery, and MGP out of Indiana. He settled on MGP.  After tasting from over twenty barrels, he and his staff found one that they unanimously agreed upon, and was distilled from a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley.

"Looking for the Horsethief - the police are looking for a man giving his name as Harry Sims, who hired a horse and buggy in Jefferson, then came to Watertown the following day and sold the outfit to James Dowd. He claimed that he had been on the road selling household articles, but was tired of it and wanted to dispose of the property. The horse was hired at Tony Boll's." - Stable Rock Winery & Distillery

Rob told me he felt the optimal proof would be 100°.  I purchased my 750ml bottle of Horsethief for $45.00. All of this information is well and good, but what really matters is how this Bourbon performs, and the only way to learn that is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Horsethief offered a deep caramel manifestation. It created a medium rim that led to slow, thick legs. 

Nose:  A sweet, fruity aroma filled the air.  It began with vanilla and brown sugar. Candied fruit was next, followed by toasted oak and cinnamon. When I inhaled the fumes through my lips, heavy berry and vanilla ran across my tongue.

Palate:  From the start, the mouthfeel was oily and full-bodied. The experience went from sweet to spicy. On the front, I tasted caramel and vanilla cream. At mid-palate, flavors of cherry and plum ended with cocoa. On the back, I found clove, dark chocolate, and oak.

Finish:  Similarly to the palate, the finish was initially sweet, then spicy. Except, it circled back around. Berry initiated the journey, then oak and black pepper showed up, and as that faded, it featured a smoky char and rye spice that lasted for several minutes. When I was convinced it finally subsided, warm vanilla took over. This was one of the more long-lasting finishes I've waded through, and my hard palate had a slight tingle.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The very cool thing is that if you purchase a wine flight, you can include Horsethief in the mix so you're able to try before you commit. I've had some very good MGP barrels and some that are mediocre (or even less so). This is a 5-year single barrel MGP Bourbon that has a lot going for it. It had a welcoming nose, a fairly complex palate, and a never-ending finish that made me anxious for another sip. When you take into account the affordable investment of $45.00, this is the recipe for a Bottle rating.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Starlight "Bazoomka Jay" Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


With this review, I'm starting something different. I'm no longer including a rating on barrels that I've been invited to pick. My standards are strict. It is safe to assume that if I've been involved in the pick, it will always get a Bottle rating, otherwise, I would reject the barrels.

If, when you read the words, Indiana Straight Bourbon you're assuming that means it is sourced from MGP, you should do a hard reset of your mind. Starlight Distillery may be small but they've been garnering a lot of attention, and it is well-deserved.  Starlight was born from the Huber Orchard, Winery and Vineyards, located in Starlight, Indiana. It traces its roots back to 1843 when Simon Huber bought his farm and brought his German winemaking experience with him. Fast forward to 2020, and you'll find the seventh generation of Hubers are still running the place. The distillery was founded in 2001, and master distiller Ted Huber and his team create brandy, rum, grappa, vodka, gin, and, yes, Bourbon and Rye.  I've been there, it is a gorgeous campus. If you're ever in Louisville, Starlight is a very short drive north.

Back in September, The Speakeasy_WI was given an opportunity to pick a barrel of Bourbon. The panel consisted of Troy Mancusi, Jason Waugh, Dan O'Connell, and me.  The choices were between a three-grain and three four-grain samples. We unanimously settled on Barrel 16345, the three-grain, distilled from a mash of 58% corn, 27% rye, and 15% malted barley, and then aged 4.5 years in 53-gallon charred-oak barrels. Bottled at a cask strength of 114.2°, it is available exclusively from Neil's Liquors in Middleton, Wisconsin. You can procure a bottle for $49.99 and there are 188 bottles available.  It has lovingly been named Bazoomka Jay.  You can see my mug on the left.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Bazoomka Jay presented as a beautiful copper-amber color. It generated a medium-thick rim which led to fast, watery legs that raced back to the pool. 

Nose: A strong aroma of berries started things off. That was followed by bubble gum, banana, toasted oak, caramel, and corn. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, it was a blast of vanilla and berries.

Palate: The mouthfeel offered a medium body that became silky. Corn and vanilla kicked things off on the front. Come mid-palate, I tasted butterscotch and mild cinnamon. On the back, I found flavors of cherry, toasted oak, caramel, and char.

Finish:  The experience ended with a very long, spicy finish of clove, black pepper, barrel char, and sawdust. Interestingly, this one drinks much lower than its stated proof. When everything was done, as I thought about what I had tasted, bubble gum came out of nowhere and left almost as fast.

Bazoomka Jay is a wonderful example of what Starlight creates. Grab yourself a bottle before it is gone forever. Cheers!

Monday, October 5, 2020

Wollersheim Single Barrel Rye Review & Tasting Notes

I get excited when a local distillery releases something new. There's just something cool about watching growth and maturity happen. Located just outside of Sauk City, the Wollersheim Winery has been around since the 1840s. The distillery is much, much younger. Due to a change in Wisconsin law, wineries were allowed to start distilling in 2009. Shortly thereafter, they started making brandy. In 2015, a separate distillery building was constructed, and Tom Lenerz, the master distiller, started experimenting with Bourbon and Rye.

Fast forward five years and Wollersheim is getting ready to release its first Single Barrel Rye.  That starts with Barrel 16021, distilled in 2016.  Created from a sweet mash of 66% of rye, 22% yellow corn, and 12% malted barley, all of the ingredients came from Wisconsin. Even the barrels were Wisconsin-sourced. The wood was seasoned for two years, then, after being coopered into 53-gallon barrels, were first toasted then subject to a #3 char treatment.  It came out of the barrel at 110°, and a 750ml will set you back $49.99. 

I'd like to thank Wollersheim Distillery for providing me with a sample of this Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious

Appearance:  This Rye appeared as a clear, orange-amber in my Glencairn glass. It made a medium rim, and lead to tiny droplets that eventually became long, slow legs.

Nose:  Floral perfume filled my tasting room.  As I brought my glass to my nose, I inhaled aromas of toasted oak, cinnamon, and vanilla. When I breathed the vapor in my mouth, that vanilla became thick and luxurious. 

Palate:  As this whiskey crossed my lips, it was very creamy and coated everywhere, and was very full-bodied. Flavors of cocoa powder and rye spice hit the front.  Mid-palate I tasted smoked caramel, pecan, and mace. Vanilla cream, cinnamon, and toasted oak were on the back.

Finish:  Rounding things out, if you can call it rounding, was unfiltered, gritty barrel char. The cocoa returned, as did the mace, and those were annexed by black pepper and salted caramel. The saline stuck around for a long, dry finish.

I was curious about what water would do to open things up. Using an eyedropper, I added two drops of distilled water. 

Nose:  The vanilla became very strong and was blended with smoked oak. The cinnamon was reduced.  Inhaling through my mouth offered me light floral notes. 

Palate:  That creamy mouthfeel became even thicker. The pecan took the front stage and morphed into vanilla. Mid-palate suggested black pepper and dry oak. On the back, smoked caramel took over everything.

Finish:  Strangely enough, it seemed like the proof increased with water. Things were bolder. If you took toasted oak and dropped that in cinnamon syrup and let it rest for, say, a month, that's what you would have here. It produced a lot of heat. The barrel char was still there, and beneath all that was berry.  It didn't last as long as the neat pour did, but I was shocked nonetheless.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:   This is a younger Rye.  As a point of reference, I don't compare old Ryes to new ones. It isn't fair. Young Ryes are bold, older ones mellow out. I love each of them for what they are. Saying that I found Barrel #16021 to be balanced while offering a lot of flavors. I particularly enjoyed the transition from smoked to salted caramel. Between the neat and "proofed down" (if you can call it that) pours, I definitely preferred it neat. For $50.00, that's right in the sweet spot for craft whiskey and shouldn't chase anyone away.  I'm happy to have this in my library, and I believe you will, too. It takes my Bottle recommendation. Cheers!

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

Friday, August 14, 2020

George Remus "Bootlegger Bentley's" Barrel Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


If you're in Wisconsin, you know a bunch of George Remus picks just hit the shelves... and if you don't know that, now you do. If you're unfamiliar with Remus, it is one of MGP's house brands of Bourbon. MGP is known for making excellent whiskey.

One of the barrels that just hit is The Speakeasy_WI's Bootlegger Bentley's. It is time for complete and total disclosure:  The Speakeasy_WI is a fun, welcoming group I belong to and which is owned by Troy Mancusi. We do a lot of barrel picks, and ours have a history of not sticking around long.  Our most recent barrels have sold out in three days or less.

Bootlegger Bentley's was picked on February 20, 2020, just before the crap that is COVID-19 hit the fan. It was also the last in-store pick I was a part of (subsequent picks have happened remotely). Picking along with me and Troy were Dan "The Candyman" O'Connell and "Lucky Bastard" Terry Sullivan. We were sponsored by Neil's Liquors located at 2415 Allen Blvd. in Middleton, which is the exclusive retailer for this barrel.

We agreed on Barrel #357, which was seven years old and came in at 123.8°.  By the time the barrel was dumped, it was closer to 7.5 years and crept up to 124°.  The mashbill is MGP's 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley. A measly 132 750ml bottles are available and retail for $56.99.

Now that all the details have been shared, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Bootlegger Bentley's appeared as a bright amber. It left a very thin rim and generated thick, wavy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Caramel dominated the air. It was accompanied by mint, cinnamon, and dark fruit.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was mint with a touch of caramel. The bomb of caramel switched places with the mint.

Palate:  The first sip brought a need for a second. The mouthfeel was all over the place, starting off thin and as it worked its way across my mouth, thickened. That's not something you typically find. That second sip became very creamy.  Heavy vanilla was on the front.  It was joined by a very dry oak, which made for an interesting marriage. As the whiskey moved to mid-palate, berries fell from that oak, giving a nice, sweet experience. Then, on the back, cinnamon, not just cinnamon but Red Hots candy along with the berry.   

Finish:  If you can picture a finish like a freight train, this is that. It starts off slow and then once it gets going it never lets up. Six minutes past my last sip and it is still ramping up.  It starts with cocoa, then oak, and finally, black pepper.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Yes, I'm biased. But, let's get real. I require that anything that has my name attached to it must be nothing less than excellent. Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking, but keep in mind I've rejected more samples than I've given a thumbs-up to, and I go into every pick prepared to walk away empty-handed. I don't pick something because there's an opportunity.

However, let's look at this objectively. This is a 7-year old barrel-proof Bourbon and it is only $57.00.  On the surface, that's a hell of a good price.  The fact that Bootlegger Bentley's is one that you won't want to chug through means you'll take more time per sip to enjoy it. Obviously, it gets a Bottle rating. Get yours before it is gone. Cheers!

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

Thursday, June 18, 2020

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

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

I enjoy the hell out of Elijah Craig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

La Crosse Distilling "Reboar'n" Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

A little over a year ago, I reviewed a standard release of La Crosse Distilling Co.'s High Rye Light Whiskey.  It was the first decent Light Whiskey I'd tasted and earned somewhere between a Bar and Bottle rating. I've passed the bottle around to several people and the reviews were mixed. Some people really enjoyed it, others said it was decent but not great. I don't recall anyone saying it was lacking. But, that also validated my rating.

If you're not familiar with La Crosse Distilling, it is a craft distillery in (you guessed it) La Crosse, Wisconsin. It uses only organic, locally-grown ingredients, and the still is powered by geothermal energy, making it very earth-friendly.  It makes gins, vodkas, rock & rye, and light whiskey.  Barrels are sourced locally from Staggemeyer Stave Co., located 20 minutes southwest of the distillery. They're currently aging Bourbon and other whiskeys.  Their Light Whiskey is a mash of rye and wheat.

Today, I'm reviewing another High Rye Light Whiskey from La Crosse Distilling. What's different about this one?  Well, this one aged one year and a day in used Wisconsin Full Boar Straight Rye barrels. This was a collaboration between La Crosse Distilling and Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, and as such, it is exclusively available at Niemuth's.  The barrel yield was 125 90°-bottles and can be purchased for $29.99. Niemuth's decided to name this one Reboar'n

I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. So, let's get to it. Time to #DrinkCurious

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Reboar'n appears the color of straw. It left a very thin rim on the wall of my glass, and that rim never generated any legs. The rim just stuck like glue.

Nose:  Despite its aging for a year, it still had the aroma of buttered popcorn like many new-make whiskeys do. It lacked any alcohol vapor to the face. I found light oak and then, surprisingly, caramel. My guess is that caramel came from the previously-barreled rye.  When I inhaled through my lips initially, I tasted nothing. However, after repeated attempts, a hint of citrus materialized.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and coating. It also smacked my hard palate hard, which took me aback. I had to remind myself that this is only 90°!  Up at the front was an obvious rye spice dusted with cinnamon. As it moved to the middle, I tasted floral and citrus notes. It was an interesting combination. The back was all dry oak.

Finish:  My throat was warmed by a very long, spicy finish of clove and rye.  I would estimate it lasted just beyond three minutes before it began to wander off.  Clove is something I find appealing in whiskey, and that brought a smile to my face.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Because of the high-rye mash and ex-rye barrel aging, Reboar'n took on a lot of rye character, much more than the original version I tasted last year. If you really enjoy spicy rye, then Reboar'n is going to be a Bottle rating for you. If you haven't delved much (or at all) into Light Whiskeys, you may want to try this one first (giving it a Bar rating).  Cheers!

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