Showing posts with label Tennessee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tennessee. Show all posts

Monday, April 19, 2021

Stellum Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Have you heard the news?  Barrell Craft Spirits has launched a new brand called Stellum Spirits. Stellum's mission is to be clean, straightforward, and polished. The name comes from a play on the Latin term stella, meaning star. Barrell will also tell you the name just sounded cool.

"Stellum stands with the modern American whiskey drinker. We respect the history of whiskey, but we're more interested in making spirits accessible to today's audience. With an eye towards innovation, minimalism, and inclusivity, Stellum Spirits is here for you, whoever you may be." - Stellum Spirits

Last week I reviewed Stellum Rye, and you can learn more about the brand from what I wrote there. Today, I'm going with Stellum Bourbon.

One of the "cool" things about Stellum Bourbon is how it is made. It begins with a blend of three MGP mashbills:  two that are high rye (60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley), and one that is 99% corn and 1% malted barley. The remainder consists of older whiskeys from Tennessee (George Dickel) and Kentucky (an undisclosed distillery). Stellum uses a multi-step blending process to make things "just right." It is non-chill filtered, carries no age statement, and is bottled at 114.98°. Available in 45 markets, you can expect to pay about $54.99 for a 750ml package.

Before I #DrinkCurious, I'd like to thank Stellum Spirits for providing me a sample of the Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Stellum Bourbon was a chestnut-amber color. It formed a thicker rim that fabricated heavy, slow, sticky legs.

Nose:  Aromas of allspice and tobacco were easy to discern. I also smelled rye bread, toasted oak, and almond. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I discovered a mixture of strong almond and muted caramel.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was soft, light, and airy. This is just shy of 115°? I find that difficult to believe. On the front, flavors of vanilla, almond, and nougat gave it an almost candy bar experience. The middle featured cola, ginger, and honey. On the back, I tasted black pepper, clove, and cocoa powder. 

Finish:  A medium-length finish began with clove and cinnamon, and ended with toasted oak and a drop of honey.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There are a few things I want to touch on. The first is that if you told me this was 90-some-odd proof, I'd believe you. To have something drink 20-points below its stated proof is crazy. It offered zero burn either on the initial sip or the finish. The second is that this is one of those dangerous whiskeys, meaning, if you were inclined to do so, you could probably drink dram after dram and not even realize you're getting plastered.

There was absolutely nothing I didn't enjoy about Stellum Bourbon. It wasn't overly complicated, it had interesting flavors. The only thing I'd be more interested in would be a long finish, as that would likely slow down the "dangerous" part.

For $54.99, you're going to be hard-pressed to not be pleased with your purchase. I'm thrilled to have this one in my whiskey library. As such, I offer my Bottle rating for Stellum Bourbon. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Friday, March 19, 2021

Barrell Bourbon Batch 28 Review & Tasting Notes


Some folks get hung up on single barrels, single malts, etc. I make it a point at any of my tasting events for my guests to keep an open mind - the whole #DrinkCurious philosophy is pushed hard.  Single barrels and single malts can be awesome, but blending is a learned skill and unless you're very, very lucky, you don't just mix things together and wind up with a good finished product. Play around with an infinity bottle - you'll understand that many great whiskeys blended together do not necessarily make for a good blend. Believe me, I know. I've dumped my own attempts at infinity bottles down the drain because they were just horrific.

Today I'm sipping on Batch 28 Bourbon from Barrell Craft Spirits. If you're unfamiliar with Barrell, they aren't distillers, they're blenders. They're also, for the most part, at the top tier of American blenders. I won't say that I've loved everything Barrell has put out, but I will say that I've enjoyed most of it. A good example of Bottle and Bust ratings for Barrell can be found on my review of their Private Release Series. The nice thing about Barrell, good or bad, is that everything is bottled at barrel-proof. They dilute nothing. 

Batch 28 is a blend of 10- and 11-year Bourbons distilled in Indiana (MGP), Kentucky, and Tennessee (George Dickel).  I've stopped trying to nail down who Barrell sources their Kentucky components from. The proof is 108.86° and the suggested retail price is $90.00. Per the youngest whiskey in the blend, it carries a 10-year age statement.

I'd like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing a sample of Batch 28 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's get to it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Batch 28 presented as a hazy orange amber. It offered a medium rim, but husky, slow legs that dropped back to the pool while leaving sticky droplets behind.

Nose:  Batch 28 was fragrant before I pulled the glass anywhere near my face. A fruitful bouquet of orange zest, apricot, peach, and cherry started things off. They were joined by honey, oak, and a mineral quality that spoke Dickel. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I could swear a Dreamsicle caressed my tongue. 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be extremely oily and coated everywhere. As the liquid hit the front of my palate, flavors of orange citrus, cherry, apricot, and strawberry required no effort to discern. At the middle, I tasted a marriage of smoked vanilla and salted caramel. The back featured oak, walnut, orange peel, and clove.

Finish:  Long and warming (but not hot), the finish seemed like a blending of Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, smoked oak, black pepper, and a dash of brine.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I loved the orchard of fruit on the nose and palate. The mouthfeel was deliciously oily. There was no Flintstone vitamin quality that can come from Dickel-sourced whiskeys. The finish reminiscent of two great liqueurs was a nice touch and unexpected. I believe Barrell has another winner with Batch 28, and I'm happy to tender my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Bib & Tucker 10 Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Let's talk about truth and bias. Bib & Tucker has been the butt of some of my jokes for a long time. The reason for that? I got together with a couple of buddies ("Made Man" Bob Howell and "Made Man" Brent Sehnert of Sips, Suds, and Smokes) several years ago, and I was allowed to choose a bottle of anything at Brent's house to try. I saw the fancy bottle, which I've seen many times before, and they both started giggling like schoolgirls. They then put on straight faces (or attempted to) while I took my sip, then couldn't contain themselves and busted out in full belly laughs as they watched my reaction. It wasn't pretty.

One of the first podcasts I was interviewed on was The Podcask with The Greeze and Will Haynes. They started joking around about Bib & Tucker, and yeah, I joined in on the fun. 

My point is, I didn't like Bib & Tucker and I wasn't really interested in ever revisiting it, my #DrinkCurious lifestyle be damned. But, a few weeks ago, as I was commenting on it in a Facebook discussion, I was approached by its brand representative who asked if I'd be willing to try the 10-year expression. I agreed, and the sample arrived the other day.

I sat there for a day or so staring at the bottle, wondering about how it would taste. One thing for sure was it couldn't taste itself, and dammit, this is what I do. Good, bad, or ugly it was time to review it! But, the absolute honest truth is, I'm biased.

What, exactly, is Bib & Tucker?  It is a sourced Bourbon from Tennessee. The distillery itself is undisclosed, but it is made from a mash of 70% corn, 26% rye, and 4% malted barley. I went through my stack of reviews but couldn't find a distillery with that same mash. Whoever does the distilling, it is twice-distilled, once in an extended column still, the second time in an old-fashioned pot still. The newmake is poured into #1-charred white oak barrels and is left to age a decade. Bib & Tucker states its entry proof is lower than the average of other Bourbons. The whiskey is non-chill filtered and bottled at 92°. You can expect to spend about $75.00 on a 750ml.

I've penned all of this while the Bourbon was relaxing in my glass, letting it oxidize. Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Bib & Tucker for sending me this sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Bib & Tucker 10-year presented as chestnut in color. It left a thicker rim on the wall, and that led to watery legs to fall back into the pool of whiskey.

Nose:  A combination of sawdust and toasted oak hit my nostrils first. My guess is that was from the #1-char level. I also picked up aromas of orange and vanilla, but not what I would describe as a creamsicle. When I inhaled through my lips, it became cherry vanilla. 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be oily and offered a medium body. On the front, I tasted vanilla and orange peel. At mid-palate, it was salted caramel. Then, on the back, toasted oak and clove.

Finish:  The medium-short finish consisted of toasted oak, caramel, and cola.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Here's the scoop. Bib & Tucker 10-year didn't deserve the loathing I anticipated. It wasn't bad at all. However, it also wasn't great. It was, in a term, Plain Jane. There was nothing exciting about it. If this was a $30 or $40 Bourbon, I could see myself saying, "Go for it." But, for $75.00, I expect more.  If you're a fan of the 6-year Bib & Tucker, the 10-year is something you'll probably want in your home bar. For me, though, I can't give it a rating other than Bar.  You'll definitely want to try this one before making the investment.  Cheers!

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

Friday, January 8, 2021

Barrell Craft Spirits Private Release Series Reviews & Tasting Notes


Everyone wants their own private barrel. Maybe you own a liquor store. Perhaps you run a restaurant. Or, perchance you are part of a local whiskey club. The idea of having something exclusive that nobody else will ever have is tempting - nay, romantic.

What if, instead of just randomly taking samples and selecting the best (or rejecting them all), you had more control and had a way to predict how the barrel would taste based upon a customized recipe?  You can do that if you know the right people. 

In this case, the "right people" are from Barrel Craft Spirits. They've just released something called the Barrell Private Release Series. This isn't your typical barrel pick program. Instead, you'll get a customized, blended recipe of Bourbons sourced from Kentucky, Indiana (MGP), and Tennessee (Dickel). There are four different ages involved:  5-year, 9-year, 13-year, and 15-year.  That results in 49 different options by the time all is said and done. You'd be buying a barrel's worth, typically yielding between 150 and 180 bottles. 

"Known best for sourcing and blending award-winning, unique aged spirits at cask strength, BCS' Private Release Series is an exercise in micro-blending and variations on a theme. It affords the team the opportunity to showcase its blending expertise while maintaining a single barrel-like scale controlled entirely by hand and by palate." - Barrell Craft Spirits

Proof varies from batch to batch, but retail is universal at $109.99 per 750ml. For any particular release, you can get information from Barrell's Private Release Series website about the recipe and, if the batch has already been purchased, where you can buy a bottle. This is something Barrell plans on maintaining. 

Barrell provided me with five samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews on each. That's a whole lot of opportunity to #DrinkCurious. I arranged these the way I would arrange many other tastings - I went from lowest-to-highest proof.

Up first is Batch A05A.  Bottled at 107.08°, the recipe consists of 10% 5-year, 10% 9-year, 15% 13-year, and 65% 15-year. The goal was to showcase older, dusty, and oxidized notes that are not normally found in blends.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this batch created a thin rim that generated medium, slow legs to drop back to the pool. It was the color of a classic orange-amber.

Nose:  This Bourbon was very fragrant. It started with toasted oak and coconut, then mint, orange peel, maple, and a mineral quality that smelled like Dickel. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, butterscotch was everywhere.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was full-bodied and creamy. I found the front fruity with berries and plum. Caramel joined before it moved to mid-palate, where dark chocolate and butterscotch took over. On the back, I tasted oak, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Finish:  There was a lighter initial hug, but the first thing that stood out was the typical Dickel Flintstones vitamins. Cinnamon and plum followed, along with vanilla, oak, and black pepper. As I continued to sip, the finish grew longer and longer.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  For the most part, I found Batch A05A to be enjoyable, and there was plenty of flavors, but I could have done without the Dickel signature finish. For $110.00, this one gets a Bar rating. See for yourself if the Flintstones vitamin taste is your jam.

The second selection is Batch A16c.   The recipe is 45% 5-year, 15% 9-year, 25% 13-year, and 15% 15-year and bottled at 111.48°.  The intent was to highlight a fresh, corn-forward sweetness.

Appearance:  Batch A16c presented as a lighter bronze-amber. A medium rim formed, which led to thick, wavy legs to fall back to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of caramel, cherry, nutmeg, and roasted corn were easy to pick out. When I drew a whiff through my mouth, sweet corn and vanilla raced across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily and offered a medium body. On the front, I tasted caramel and sweet corn. The middle comprised of vanilla and pecan praline, while the back flavors were rye spice, dry oak, and cherry.

Finish:  A longer finish started with cinnamon red hots that, once it began to fade, gave way to oak, cherry cola, and vanilla.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Missing from this batch was the Flintstones vitamins, which made me happier. It was also a simpler palate, with a nice balance of sweet and spice to keep things interesting. I could see this one being an easy seller, and convey a Bottle rating for it.


Batch D01K was the third pour, and its components are 50% 5-year, 35% 9-year, 10% 13-year, and 5% 15-year. The blend is bottled at 112.78°. It was designed to feature the sweetness and earthiness of Kentucky Bourbon.

Appearance:  This one appeared as the color of caramel.  The medium rim fostered thick, slow legs that crawled back to the pool.

Nose:  Nutmeg was very forward on the nose, which then became cocoa. But I also smelled dark fruit, almond, and mint.  When I breathed in through my mouth, it was a vanilla bomb.

Palate:  When the liquid hit my palate, it was oily with a medium body. On the front, I sampled caramel, toffee, and corn. As the whiskey moved to the middle, it became herbal with walnuts and slightly bitter. The back was sweet tobacco leaf, cocoa, and cinnamon spice.

Finish:  Medium-to-long, the spicy finish showcased cinnamon red hots, vanilla, and toasted oak.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I didn't find D01K overly exciting. The bitterness on the middle was a bit off-puting. I can understand how some folks go for that, but that's not my thing. Unfortunately, this batch takes a Bust.

Fourth in line was Batch A31i. This was a blend of 25% 5-year, 25% 9-year, 35% 13-year, and 15% 15-year Bourbons, and bottled at 113.24°. Designed to emphasize Indiana Bourbon, BCS went for a chocolatey, chalky experience.

Appearance:  This batch looked like raw honey. It produced a heavy rim and sticky legs that didn't really go anywhere. 

Nose:  A serious oak aroma began the trek, with chocolate, cherry, and spearmint bringing up the rear. When I inhaled through my lips, a wave of caramel coated my tongue.

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be silky with a medium body. The first thing I tasted was dark chocolate and caramel, almost like a Cadbury bar. On the middle, things got nutty with roasted almond and hazelnut.  The back was an interesting combination of nutmeg, caramel (again), and toasted oak.

Finish:  The finish lasted several minutes.  Clove, cocoa, toasted oak, chili powder, and hazelnut strangely complimented each other.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Batch A31i was like eating a chocolate bar, a cross between the Cadbury bar, a Hershey's with Almond, and Nutella.  The warmth of its finish was well-rounded and made sense.  I really enjoyed sipping this one, and I'd be crazy to offer anything but a Bottle

Last up is Batch A14R, created for a strong, high-rye character.  Bottled at 116.2°, the blend was 20% 5-year, 60% 9-year, 10% 13-year, and 10% 15-year.

Appearance:  With a micro-thin rim that ended with a curtain falling back to the pool, this Bourbon was the color of dull, faded copper. 

Nose:  Light mint, cinnamon, and oak stuck my olfactory senses. The unexpected quality was a waft of maple syrup. That's not something I'd normally find in a high-rye mash. When I breathed in the vapor through my mouth, vanilla mint caressed my palate.

Palate:  Thick and full-bodied, the initial flavors consisted of vanilla and toasted oak. As the whiskey moved to the middle, I tasted black pepper, caramel, and orange peel. Clove, rye spice, and oak made up the back palate.

Finish:  The medium-length finish was spicy with rye, dry oak, barrel char, and mint.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Batch A14R was simple and tasty. The maple syrup on the nose threw me for a loop. The spiciness this blend targeted did not disappoint, and was enjoyable. Is it worth $110.00?  I find myself leaning at a Bar rating for this one.

Final Thoughts:  And that's a taste of what you can expect from the Barrell Private Release Series.  I was fascinated by two things: the lack of any numbness on tingling despite the higher proofs and how only the A05A tasted of Flintstones vitamins despite all five having a Dickel component.  My favorite by a mile was A31i. This was an interesting tasting for me and the ratings were all over the spectrum, which kept things fun. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Davidson Reserve Tennessee Straight Sour Mash Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


I've recently been introduced to Pennington Distillery's line-up of whiskeys. So far, I've reviewed its Genesis limited-edition Bourbon, its Four-Grain limited-edition Bourbon, and its Tennessee Straight Rye. Today, I'm pouring its Tennessee Straight Sour Mash Whiskey

What is sour mash whiskey? Well, it isn't sour, that's for sure. When you distill whiskey, there are two methods used:  sweet mash and sour mash.  Sweet mash is when each batch of whiskey is brand new. It allows for variety in flavor. Sour mash, on the other hand, makes for a more consistent experience batch-to-batch. It does that by using some of the spent mash from a previous batch as a setback, which is blended into the new mash. It keeps the pH balance within a tight tolerance.

It starts with a mash of 70% white Tennessee corn, 20% white Tennessee cereal rye, and 5% malted barley. That's distilled twice. Pennington, like most Tennessee distilleries, then uses what's called the Lincoln County Process, which means that after the mash is run through the still and before it is barreled, the newmake is filtered or steeped through chips of maple charcoal.  This is supposed to provide the whiskey a softer mouthfeel and flavor. 

Pennington then ages this newmake for at least four years, and when dumped, it is proofed down to 96°.  Once packaged, it sells for about $39.99.

I'd like to thank Pennington for sending me a bottle of its Tennessee Straight Sour Mash in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  It is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as a deep, dark, mahogany color. It left a medium rim on the wall, and that generated fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Surprisingly, wood was not one of the aromas involved. Instead, nutmeg, vanilla, plum, and maple syrup is what I smelled. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, the flavor of berries raced across my palate.

Palate: The mouthfeel was very, very oily and, while not heavy, still had weight. The first thing I tasted was dark chocolate and toffee. Yeah, that sounds almost contradictory.  As the liquid moved mid-palate, an enticing combination of cinnamon, brown sugar, and stewed peaches was evident. Then, on the back, it went savory to sweet with toasted oak, creamy caramel, and plum.  It was an unusual experience, to say the least.

Finish: A warming, the medium-length finish began with expresso, which then became cocoa powder. That morphed to toasted oak and nutmeg. Then, at the end, it was all cinnamon.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found this whiskey more complex than I would have guessed and I kept pouring just a little more while I was discerning the aromas and flavors. That creamy caramel on the back didn't materialize until my second glass, and then I was left wondering how I even missed it. I loved it. When I considered the low barrier of entry, this became a no-brainer Bottle recommendation. I can't imagine you wouldn't enjoy it, too.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Davidson Reserve Tennessee Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


Rye whiskey. It usually comes blended with grains other than rye.  You can have anything from barely legal stuff like Rittenhouse Rye, which is only 51% rye content, or you can go all the way up to 100% rye.  The barely legal stuff tends to attract more Bourbon drinkers who don't care for Rye because, well, it is not too far off of Bourbon. It will have lots of vanilla on the palate. Then, those who say they don't care for Rye typically get into the higher rye mashbills. 

Today I'm sipping a 100% rye mash from Pennington Distilling Co. under their Davidson Reserve brand. Who is Pennington, you might ask?  My recent review of its Genesis Bourbon can provide you all the background of the distillery.  The white cereal rye was grown at Renfroe Farms in Huntigdon, about two hours away from Nashville, where Pennington is located before being mashed and then sent through its pot still.  That's then aged for an undisclosed period of time in 53-gallon new, charred oak barrels.  Pennington then dilutes it to 100°, and a 750ml bottle will set you back about $49.99, which is an average price for craft whiskey these days.

I'd like to thank Pennington for sending me a bottle of this Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. That being said, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey was a definitive chestnut in color. There was no cloudiness. It left a medium-thick rim on the wall that led to just a wavy curtain of legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  As I was waiting for this Rye to breathe, I could smell fruit from across the room. When I approached the glass, the fruitiness was subdued by maple syrup. But, behind that were plum, orange zest, cinnamon, and, finally, toasted oak.  When I inhaled the vapor through my mouth, the flavor of baked apples danced across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was very oily and coated everywhere, giving it a medium body.  Toffee was the first thing to it my palate, and on the front, it was joined by toasted oak. Come mid-palate, leather, mint, and rye spice were highlighted. Then, on the back, I tasted black pepper, dry oak, and tobacco leaf.

Finish:  A long sweet and spicy finish consisted of cinnamon red hots, baked apple, and barrel char.  When I thought that was all over, herbal thyme made a brief appearance.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I enjoy barely legal Ryes and I enjoy 100% Ryes. They are two completely different animals. This was one of the better 100% Ryes I've had, offering a gorgeous nose and complex palate. The spice was enough to keep things interesting without being dominating. The sweetness was complimentary. There's absolutely nothing not to like, no matter where on the rye content scale you relish. When I consider the price, this is a no-brainer Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Friday, November 6, 2020

Davidson Reserve Four Grain Tennessee Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Recently, I reviewed Davidson Reserve Genesis Bourbon from Pennington Distilling Co. and rated it a Bottle. It was an annual, limited-edition release.  Today I'm exploring their Four Grain Bourbon, another annual, limited-edition release. 

Distilled in Nashville, this Bourbon is not a standalone product.  Rather, it is a blend of three of Pennington's other whiskeys:  Tennessee Straight Rye, Tennessee Sour Mash, and Tennessee Straight Bourbon. At a later date, I'll provide reviews of the individual three component whiskeys. The four grains used in the mash are Tennessee White Corn, Tennessee White Cereal Rye, Tennessee Red Winter Wheat, and malted barley. The finished product carries a three-year age statement and is packaged at 100°.  A 750ml bottle will set you back $44.99. 

If you're wondering how something that is made a 100% rye whiskey can become a Bourbon, never fear. So long as the main ingredient is 51% or more corn, and everything else in the process meets the definition of Bourbon, you're safe. 

As with the Genesis, I'd like to thank Pennington for sending me a bottle in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn Glass, the Bourbon presented as a copper-amber color.  It left a medium rim that fabricated slow, sticky legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of cinnamon and almond were easy to discern. As I continued sniffing, I came upon cherry,  plum, and caramel.  When I drew the fumes through my open lips, a mixture of vanilla and mint traipsed across my tongue. There was no ethanol blast.

Palate:  Things began with an oily and warm mouthfeel. It coated everywhere. On the front, I tasted plum, date, and toasted coconut. As it reached mid-palate, I discovered chocolate, rye spice, and oak. Then, on the back, dominating tobacco leaf followed by cocoa powder and nutmeg.

Finish:  This was a very long, very dry finish. It sucked the moisture out of my mouth. It took several swallows to pick out toffee and that big tobacco leaf.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I understand what Pennington was trying to do here and I applaud them for the effort. This wasn't a bad Bourbon, but it was much less impressive than the Genesis. I can handle dry finishes all day long, but this was, in my opinion, way over the top. It also drinks much warmer than 100°, but that may also be the dry finish playing tricks on me.

Overall, $45.00 for craft whiskey has a slightly below-average hit to the wallet.  There are some good flavors here. If you're a wine drinker and enjoy Sangiovese, the finish may appeal to you. For me, I found it distracting. As such, I'm ponying up a Bar rating for the Four Grain Bourbon. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Davidson Reserve Genesis Tennessee Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Tennessee is steeped in distilling tradition. The most popular American whiskey in the world is Jack Daniel's Old No. 7.   Then there is George Dickel, the distillery that provides many with sourced whiskeys.  Most folks would stop right there if asked to name Tennessee distilleries. There are many others, they're just not on everyone's radar. One such distillery is Pennington Distilling Co. located in Nashville. 

Founded by the husband-wife team of Jeff and Jenny Pennington in 2011, the Penningtons started with Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream.  Usually, you see distillers start with gins and vodkas, not whiskey creams. But, they had a plan and they ran with it. Next up was Pickers Vodka. Finally, in 2014, the Penningtons started distilling Bourbon.  They named the product line Davidson Reserve

Then, in 2017, they released a limited-edition Bourbon called Genesis. Released every October 17th, and always releasing only 1017 bottles (in case you didn't catch that, 1017 is October 17th). What Genesis is is a blend of three of the original 25 barrels distilled in 2014. This is their Birthday Bourbon, and the 2020 edition is the sixth year of the release.

Distilled from a mash of 70% white corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley, Genesis is bottled at 100°.  Pennington suggests in its marketing materials that it is Bottled-in-Bond, although it doesn't say that anywhere on the label. As this is extremely limited (there are, at most, only 1016 other bottles out there), finding retail pricing is $99.99, and if you can find a bottle, like anything else allocated, it is probably above MSRP.

I'd like to thank Pennington for sending me a bottle of Genesis in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious, shall we?

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Genesis appeared as a reddish-amber. It created a thicker rim that brought about fast, medium legs to fall back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Fruit could be smelled from across the room. As the glass came closer to my face, it was easier to narrow aromas down.  Honeysuckle and raisin came first, followed by green grape and cherry. I didn't pick up any wood notes or ethanol.  When I breathed the vapor in my mouth, vanilla and raisin danced across my tongue.

Palate:  My first sip seemed thin and light. But, the body gained weight as I continued to explore what was in my glass. It never got heavy or full-bodied but did offer an oily texture. Corn and toasted oak were predominant on the front. As the Bourbon moved to my middle-palate, blueberries and cherries blended with candied almond. Then, on the back, I tasted tobacco leaf and vanilla, which made for an interesting combination.

Finish:  A long-lasting finish of cinnamon, honey-roasted peanuts, almond, and charred oak kept things going and warmed my throat.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Tennessee Whisky is a category I don't delve into often. I stick to the professional blenders who source from Dickel or bottles of the higher-end offerings from Jack Daniel's. This is nothing like the standard fare from either of those distilleries. For that matter, this is nothing like the "good" stuff from those, either. 

Instead, what I experienced was unique (always a scary word) and I appreciate what the Penningtons have distilled and aged. I have no idea what the previous three releases of Genesis were like, but this six-year is delicious, and I'm thrilled to have it in my whiskey library. That, folks, means this snags my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Standard Proof Pecan Infused Rye Review & Tasting Notes

I've reviewed flavored whiskeys before. They're a different kind of spirit to review because not only am I trying to review the flavor, but also the whiskey hiding underneath the flavor.  Is the producer trying to show off a skill, or, conversely, trying to salvage a mediocre (or even horrible) whiskey?

"Standard Proof Whiskey Co. was born behind the bar in Nashville, TN. Our whiskey infusions began as a well-kept secret created by bartenders to share with friends and frequent bar patrons. Aged in new, American oak barrels and bottled at 80 proof, our quality rye whiskey is carefully infused with only the finest natural ingredients." -- Standard Proof Whiskey Co.

If you were to ask me about the veracity of the backstory, I have no idea. However, I will say that's to the one that Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey uses. As far as I can tell, the two brands are unrelated.

Standard Proof Whiskey Co. has been advertising on social media like crazy.  Naturally, when I stumble across something I've never heard of, I want to know more. Established in 2017, this non-distilling producer (NDP) offers infused Rye whiskeys. As far as finding out who the actual distiller is, that becomes challenging. The whiskey comes from a mash of 51% rye, 44% corn, and 5% malted barley. I've only found one distiller who uses this mashbill, but it wouldn't make sense as it likely doesn't have enough stock to share.

Today I'm reviewing its Pecan Rye. Standard Proof takes San Saba pecans from Texas and infuses them into the Rye for 14 weeks.  The label indicates it uses real pecan. The Rye is then filtered through a proprietary process. A 750ml bottle runs about $28.00.

I'd like to thank Standard Proof for sending me a sample of this Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Pecan Rye appeared as a cloudy, bronze-amber color. It left a medium rim on the glass that yielded fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  Ethanol was the first thing to hit my olfactory senses despite allowing it to rest in my glass for about twenty minutes.  But, underneath that was the distinct smell of sweet pecan pie. I also found oak, barrel char, and the slightest hint of mint. When I inhaled through my mouth, I was hit with the ethanol again and the mint was more prevalent.

Palate:  My first sip was thin and oily. It was harsh and not enjoyable. At my tasting events, I always tell folks to never judge a whiskey on the first sip.  As I explored further, I unearthed cinnamon and honey-roasted pecans on the front. Mid-palate, vanilla, corn, and nutmeg took over - pretty much the start of pecan pie filling. On the back, milk chocolate drowned everything else out.

Finish:  The milk chocolate was rounded by oak and candied pecan. It took several sips to figure out because the finish was so short.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated earlier, my initial experience was not pleasant. But, as I continued to sip, it improved.  Each time I swallowed, I picked up a stronger and more dominant note of milk chocolate. The finish never added length. The ethanol eventually burned off but it took over thirty minutes to happen. I don't mind at all allowing whiskey to breathe, I do it all the time as my standard tasting procedure. However, I don't usually have to wait as long as I had to for things to open naturally. This Pecan Rye was decent. I couldn't tell you about the quality of the Rye used as any real Rye notes were masked by the pecan. I've tested and reviewed other Pecan whiskeys that proved superior to the Standard Proof version and priced competitively so. As such, I'm extending a Bar recommendation.  Try this one before you commit to a bottle. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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

Monday, September 7, 2020

Barrell Bourbon Batch 024 Review & Tasting Notes


Barrel-proof whiskey is a ton of fun. First of all, it is exciting to taste something in its purest form, before it has been adulterated.  Secondly, it gives you a chance to play around by carefully adding water or ice, bringing out different notes, yet still have enough proof to enjoy what's there.

Then there's the art of blending. Some folks get hung up on single barrels, single malts, etc. I make it a point at any of my tasting events for my guests to keep an open mind - single barrels and single malts can be awesome, but blending is a learned skill and unless you're very, very lucky, you don't just mix things together and wind up with a good finished product. Play around with an infinity bottle - you'll understand that many great whiskeys blended together do not necessarily make for a good blend. 

Today I'm reviewing Barrell Bourbon, Batch 024 from Barrell Craft Spirits. Barrell isn't distilling - rather, they're blenders. They take great care in selecting the barrels they believe will create something special. They also don't source from a single distillery. In the case of Batch 024, it sourced from Indiana (MGP), Tennessee (Dickel), and Kentucky (yeah, I have no idea). Barrell found high-rye Bourbon barrels between nine and fifteen years old.  The nine, ten, and thirteen-year barrels were chosen for their spicy qualities. Then, a fifteen-year was chosen for its citrusy notes. By the time the blending process is done, barrel-proof is 113.9°.  A 750ml will set you back about $89.99.

That's in the category of what I consider pricy, and as such, it needs to be special to get a Bottle rating from me. I'd like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample of Batch 024 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Batch 024 presented as mahogany in color. It created a very thick rim and fat droplets that stuck like glue. They continued to form until they became too heavy, then started to crawl back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  A floral perfume hit my olfactory senses. Once I got past that, I discovered oak, and then it became an orchard. I found orange peel, apples, pear, and a huge slap of cherry. Before the nose ended, cinnamon and nutmeg added a bit of spice. When I inhaled through my lips, it became a vanilla bomb.

Palate:  This was a thin, oily Bourbon, and that shocked me because of how it stuck to the glass. Things started off with an earthy quality, followed by oak and cocoa powder on the front. As the liquid moved to mid-palate, I tasted dark chocolate, gingerbread cookies, and cinnamon. On the back, there was a harmony of leather, tobacco leaf, clove, and cherry.

Finish:  I found a very, very long finish of black pepper, clove, and a hint of saline. While I didn't experience a blast of "heat" from the proof, my hard palate was noticeably numb.

My desire to see what would happen if I added distilled water became overwhelming. Using an eye-dropper, I added only two drops. That should be enough to bring out new sensations without overdiluting things. 

Nose:  At barrel-proof, there was a lot of fruit. With the added water, it just exploded with plum and cherry. Then notes of cinnamon and brown sugar, and, finally, banana cream pie with Nilla cookies. It was crazy, I could smell that whole desert!  When I inhaled through my lips, it was all milk chocolate.

Palate:  It is amazing what water can do to change a mouthfeel. That thin, oily attribute was gone and it transformed into a thick, creamy one. Cinnamon, gingerbread, and vanilla were at the front. Brown sugar, caramel, and mace then took center stage. On the back, dry oak, cola, and cherry rounded things out.

Finish:  Black pepper, and clove remained, but those were accompanied by dry oak and banana pudding, offering an unusual experience.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I appreciated what Batch 024 had to offer when sipped neat. I was ready to give it a Bottle rating. When I added water, I not-so-silently prayed I wouldn't dilute it too much. Despite enjoying it neat, those two drops of water made things fascinating. In either case, the Flintstones vitamin sensation that is typical of Dickel was completely absent, and that was a bonus. Barrell did a stellar job blending barrels from the three distilleries and created something well worth $90.00. It snags my Bottle rating, and I invite you to play around with distilled water if you buy one. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Justice Barrel Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I'm gonna lay all my cards on the table.  I am, generally speaking, suspect of George Dickel whiskeys. It isn't that they're bad, but what I've had has been fairly unimpressive. I've walked away from several barrel picks, not knowing they were Dickel beforehand, but after passing judgment, learned they were, indeed, Dickel barrels. For me, there's always that Flinstones vitamin taste to it.

The #DrinkCurious lifestyle is one of each barrel or bottle considered innocent until proven guilty. That means when you are presented with something you've rejected in the past, you don't dismiss future opportunities. You take them one at a time. Everything deserves a second, third, or even fourth chance.

Proof and Wood Ventures is a company that brands itself as Purveyors and Blenders of American and Global Spirits. Founded by Dave Schmier, it takes what it considers only the best barrels and tries to improve upon them. That's a heck of a task that many have tried and few have found serious success. 

Today I'm reviewing The Justice, which is a Dickel-sourced Bourbon that carries a 14-year age statement. Proof and Wood purchased a dozen barrels and blended them to make this barrel-proof Bourbon. And, when I say barrel proof, you're going to think I'm crazy when I tell you what it is:  94.2°!  That's one of the lowest barrel-proof American whiskeys I've had the opportunity to try, and, in fact, might be the lowest. It was distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2019. Retail is about $89.00.

I'd like to thank Proof and Wood for providing me a sample of The Justice in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's have a trial, shall we?

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Justice appeared before The Court as a deep, brown amber. It left evidence of a thick, heavy rim and fat, slow legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of cinnamon and vanilla pled the case. Then, cherry, plum, and toasted oak were introduced for consideration. When I inhaled through my lips, the vanilla was insistent.

Palate:  The oral arguments started thick and full-bodied.  Plum, cinnamon, and cherry testified first. Then, midway through, cola, stewed fruits, and citrus bore witness. Finally, dry oak and cocoa established their presence.

Finish:  A long, intense cross-examination of dry oak, spearmint, black pepper, and leather made their cases. Then, cherry offered an objection insisting it was owed due diligence.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found a few things that impressed me. First, the mouthfeel got thicker and thicker each time I sipped. Second of all, this one drank much higher than 94° - it wasn't burn per se, but there was a definite Kentucky... err... Tennessee hug. The verdict is in:  This one changed my mind on Dickel. I thought this was deliciously complex, it was unusual, and I think this is worth every penny of the $89.00 investment. As such, it takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Chattanooga Whiskey Cask Strength Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Pardon me, boy.   
Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?   
Yes yes track twenty-nine.   
Boy, you can gimme a shine.   
Can you afford  
to board the Chattanooga choo choo?   
I've got my fare,   
and just a trifle to spare.

I'm not here to sing the accolades of a train, but I am reviewing a whiskey from Chattanooga. In fact, that's the name. Chattanooga Whiskey.  This would be their cask strength Bourbon.

According to their website, Chattanooga Whiskey has a short, but interesting history. Once Prohibition was rescinded, Tennessee only allowed three counties to legally distill whiskey. The rest of the state was dry. Then, in 2009, the state voted to allow 41 additional counties to distill. Except, Chattanooga was not in one of those counties. In 2011, the Chattanooga Whiskey brand was founded, and they contracted with MGP to provide them with distilled spirits. Two years later, Chattanooga was finally able to legally distill. They opened the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery, and then, their Riverfront Distillery.

The cask strength is a four-grain Bourbon, with three of those grains consisting of different malts.  They call it a Tennessee High Malt Bourbon.  The mash is yellow corn, malted rye, caramel malted barley, and honey malted barley. It aged two years and was made in small batches from between eight and twelve barrels.  Today, I'm reviewing Batch 19G19R, which is unfiltered, bottled at 111° and retails for about $44.99.

In my Glencairn glass, Chattanooga appears as a burnt orange amber. It left a thin rim on the wall that led to thin legs. Those legs raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of caramel and chocolate hit me hard, and underneath that was fruitcake. Not the crummy one that gets passed along year after year with no one ever enjoying it, but the good kind, the one soaked in alcohol, the one that everyone digs into.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a mixture of honey and caramel.

When the liquid passed my lips, it was a very thin mouthfeel. My first thought was, This is 111 proof?  At the front of my palate, it was as if I stuffed a Bit O' Honey in my mouth. That was soon followed by a train of dark chocolate, vanilla, and cherries. Then, on the back, I tasted toasted oak and a pleasant smokiness. The finish was a very, very long ride down the tracks with white pepper. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Chattanooga is a two-year-old Bourbon that is far more mellow than you'd expect. My guess is that it had something to do with the various malts.  This was a very unique pour and interesting would be an unfair description. When you combine that with the low price, especially considering it is barrel proof, it becomes more and more attractive. I enjoyed drinking this, and I believe you will, too. As such, it takes my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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