Showing posts with label private selection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label private selection. Show all posts

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Backbone Bourbon "Sweet Dreams" Speakeasy_WI Review & Tasting Notes


I take part in most of the barrel picks for The Speakeasy_WI, a club I’m a member of. In the case of the one I’m writing about today, I was not on the selection committee due to a whiskey tasting I was hosting.  I did, however, have an opportunity to taste the winning barrel after it was selected, and it has recently dropped at Neil’s Liquors in Middleton, Wisconsin.  It was selected this past August and is priced at $59.99.


I’m talking about a Backbone Bourbon pick called Sweet Dreams. If you’re unfamiliar with Backbone, it tends to pull some incredible MGP-sourced barrels of Bourbon and Rye. The Ryes are branded as Bone Snapper.


Sweet Dreams was distilled from a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. That, in turn, was barreled on March 5, 2015, and aged six-and-a-half years in #3 charred oak barrels.  Dumped in October, it weighs in at a healthy 110.6°.



How did the selection crew do?  Let’s #DrinkCurious and find out!


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Sweet Dreams took the stage of deep, dark mahogany. It created a thin rim and very fat, slow legs that crawled back down to the pool.


Nose:  The first aroma to hit my nostrils was cherry pie filling. It was joined by toasted oak, a hint of vanilla, and plum. As I inhaled through my mouth, I tasted cinnamon and plum.


Palate:  Sweet Dreams had the consistency of an out-of-control oil slick. It was shockingly not warm considering the proof:  If I didn’t know what it was upfront, I would have guessed this was somewhere around 94° or 96°. The front featured cherry and plum, while the middle offered rye spice and brown sugar. On the back, I tasted thick mocha and oak.


Finish:  I found this finish did numb my hard palate, but sneakily because it was so luxurious it lulled you into a daydream. Toasted oak, cherry, plum, cinnamon, and chocolate stuck just meshed perfectly while it all hung around for a medium finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  When I first tasted Sweet Dreams, my initial thoughts revolved around how stunning this whiskey was. When I take into account it is only $59.99, I believe you’d have to be insane to pass this one up. Bottle for sure, all day long. Good job, crew! Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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


Monday, August 16, 2021

Barrell Whiskey Private Release Blend CH21 Review & Tasting Notes


Some months ago, I wrote about the Barrell Private Release program and had a chance to sample several options. They were very different from one another, but this was a much different experience compared to picking a barrel of whiskey.

I've just returned from a trip to Colorado. One of the stops I made was to Daveco, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest liquor store in the world! I walked in there and it was just mind-blowingly vast. 

I visit Denver at least once a year. Shortly after the last time I was there, Daveco's manager, Luke, invited me to swing by his store. I remember telling him I was just there, but that I'd be back. That was about a year ago, and when I scheduled my return trip, I was sure to touch base with Luke. For the record, he's an amazingly nice guy and easy to talk to. We chatted a bit while he stocked one of the whiskey aisles.

Luke told me he had a whiskey he picked from Barrell Craft Spirits that he would like me to try (and review). This was Blend CH21.  

"CH21 is a blend of Kentucky Whiskeys, the largest component being 18-year-old Kentucky whiskey, finished in an Indiana Rye cask." - Barrell Craft Spirits

What can we take away from that? Well, we know that Barrell sources its Indiana whiskeys from MGP, so that would take care of the finishing cask. We don't know much else, we don't even know what kind of whiskeys were used other than the fact they're all from Kentucky. It could be a blend of Bourbon, Rye, Light Whiskey, Single Malt, new cooperage, old, whatever. It might involve two whiskeys, it could be twenty. And, you know what? It matters not. What matters is what the end product tastes like. It is packaged at 112.8°. For the unofficial record, I've been told by more than one person this is from Jim Beam. 

CH21 is available exclusively from Daveco (you can get the direct link here) for $99.99.  Before you order one for yourself, allow me to #DrinkCurious and tell you all about it. And, before I do that, I want to thank Luke for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, CH21 presents as bright gold. It created a medium rim that released very slow droplets that eventually found their way back to the pool.

Nose:  Caramel was the first scent to hit my nose. That was followed by cinnamon powder, plum, cherry, and orange blossom. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, a duo of raw honey and cherry rolled across my tongue. 

Palate:  Oily and medium-bodied, CH21 starts with vanilla and cinnamon on the front. That cinnamon builds and carries through the entire experience, including the finish. The middle featured orange peel and butterscotch, while the back brought in rye spice and charred oak. One thing I did notice was the longer I allowed CH21 to oxidize, the stronger and longer the butterscotch notes came through.

Finish:   The charred oak and rye spice didn't let up. It was joined by butterscotch, clove, and black pepper. It was long in length and then it just slammed on the brakes. There was a Wait... What? moment for me the first and second sips. But, then I got used to it. My hard palate did experience a slight tingle, but nothing that I'd describe as numbing.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Luke warned me that CH21 was polarizing, and I guess I can understand why. Not knowing what kind of whiskeys are used in the blend can be a frowning point for some. For me, that's just a blind tasting in a real-world setting. I didn't taste anything in terms of malted barley, so it is safe to assume a Single Malt is not a component (or if it is a minute one). I also didn't sense anything remotely close to a Wheat whiskey used - nothing about this was soft. Beyond that, the composition is anyone's guess. As previously stated, the only thing that really matters, in the end, is how it tasted and I must say that I enjoyed the hell out of CH21. This snags a Bottle rating for me, and if you tend to agree with my palate, you're going to find it fascinating, too. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

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

Sunday, March 14, 2021

And a New Record is Set...


This is a new record - for a barrel sell-out. In a mere four hours, this Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select dubbed Grumpy Old Men and picked by The Speakeasy_WI for Neil's Liquor of Middleton disappeared. 160 bottles, 130.2°, and 5-1/2 years old. 

The selection committee was Dan O'Connell, Troy Mancusi, Steve Schwartzer, Ty Krugman, and me.

The previous record was held by The Rat Pick selected for Riley's Wines of the World. That one sold out in a day.


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

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Woodinville Barrel Proof Bourbon Tasting Notes

Have you heard of Woodinville Whiskey? If not, perhaps it is time to take a look at them.  I discovered Woodinville about a year or so ago. Woodinville Whiskey Distilling Co. is located in Woodinville, Washington. They do their own distilling and don't source. Their barrels are created from wood seasoned in the open air for 18 months. Once coopered, the barrels are then slowly, heavily-toasted, and then subject to a heavy charring. As far as whiskey goes, they offer both Rye and Bourbon.

Their Bourbon is made from a mash of 72% corn, 22% rye, and 6% malted barley. After the barrels are filled, they are then transferred to one-story rickhouses (similar to Four Roses) on the other side of the Cascade Mountains in Central Washington where they are left to age.  The rickhouses are not subject to any artificial temperature controls.

Today I'm providing my tasting notes on the very first Woodinville Bourbon store pick in Wisconsin. I know all about this Bourbon because I was on the selection committee along with The Speakeasy_WI group and Neil's Liquors of Middleton. We wound up choosing Barrel 2718, which is five years old and we took it at barrel strength at 119.42°. It is non-chill-filtered and the yield was 192 bottles.  Retail is $69.99.  We named it Whassup? Flockers.

So, what makes this Bourbon special?  Time to #DrinkCurious and find out!

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Whassup? Flockers appeared as a reddish amber. The color was definitely deep.  It left a micro-thin rim on the wall and extremely slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  As I waited for the whiskey to breathe, aromas of cherries filled the air.  When I brought the glass to my face, that cherry became even stronger. That was joined by cinnamon and caramel. As I continued to explore, I discovered banana.  When I inhaled through my lips, I found heavy vanilla that rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was very silky and it took no effort for it to coat every corner of my mouth. It also, despite being 119.42°, failed to offer any noticeable heat. That allowed me to easily identify oak, barrel char, rye, and light mint at the front. Come mid-palate, I tasted thick caramel, berry, and crème brûlée that packed a punch. On the back, it was smoked oak, rye, and cocoa.

FinishWhassup? Flockers gave me a very long, complex finish of dry oak, white pepper, and coffee. Just as with the mouthfeel, there was warming but nothing that could be described as "burn."

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you've never had a whiskey that I've picked, I'm very choosey. I reject more barrels than I accept and I'm perfectly happy walking away empty-handed. My reputation as both a picker and a reviewer is on the line and I want nothing that isn't amazing attached to that. So, cut to the chase, this one's a Bottle. However, at the time of publishing, there are only a few dozen bottles left, so if you're going to act on it, the time to do that is now.  Cheers!

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

Monday, April 27, 2020

Maker's Mark Private Selection Review and Tasting Notes

The whole idea of customization in whiskey is pretty awesome. To me, that goes beyond the basic barrel pick, where you simply choose the best barrel you can find. While I've never been on a Maker's Mark Private Selection pick before, I'm fascinated by the notion that by adding staves, there is a potential for 1,001 combinations. That's what Maker's Mark claims.

The Private Selection program works as follows:  You have a fairly basic Maker's Mark 46 and then there are ten barrel staves available for customization. The choices are, Baked American Pure 2 (P2), which offers notes of sweet honey and vanilla with soft oak, Maker's 46 (46), which brings dark fruits and baking spices, Roasted French Mocha (Mo), which brings tobacco and cocoa,  Seared French Cuvée (Cu), leading to caramel and molasses, and Toasted French Spice (Sp), with ripe fruit and baking spices. You select any combination of those five.

Where do these barrels and staves come from? None other than Independent Stave Company, so this isn't any wacky cooperage no one has ever heard of. 

Maker's Mark is made from a mash of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley. Its entry proof is lower than average at 110°. It rests about six years more or less in new, #3-charred oak barrels. That's the standard release. 

From there, the Maker's 46 program comes into play, and that's interesting in its own right. First, Maker's Mark only fills Maker's 46 barrels between October and February. It is strictly a finishing program. Bottling happens in May. The idea is that the Bourbon is not exposed to the very hot temperatures in the spring and summer months, which limits the volume of tannins the whiskey absorbs. Maker's prefers to work with Maker's 46 when temperatures are 60°F or less.

Today I'm reviewing a customized version by Mahen, with six stores in Wisconsin. They're located in Sauk City, Lodi, Oregon, and three stores in Madison. Store names and addresses are provided at the bottom of this review. Mahen chose six 46, three Mo, and one Sp stave.  It was bottled at 111.6° in January 2020. The barrel number is 20-0034, carries no age statement, and a bottle will set you back $78.37 after taxes. There is no pretty sticker or a fancy name.

That's approaching the pricey end of Bourbon. Is the Private Selection program worth it? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out. But first, the disclosure. I was not involved in any way with this pick and, in fact, I'd never heard of Mahen's before being presented this bottle by their distributor, Frank Liquors. I'd like to thank them for a sample of this Bourbon for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

In my Glencairn glass, Mahen's 46 presents as a deep, dark amber. It left an ultra-thin rim on my glass that produced very, very fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Here's where things became interesting. It was a complete caramel bomb on my olfactory senses. But, hidden under the caramel was a definitive oak and cinnamon. And as I kept sniffing, I picked up berry fruits and new leather.  When I inhaled through my lips, flavors of cocoa and smoked oak ran over my tongue.

When I sipped the Bourbon, it offered a thick, viscous mouthfeel. There was no harshness from alcohol burn, which was pleasant considering the proof. The front of my palate enjoyed an unusual marriage of coffee, old leather, and nutmeg. As the whiskey moved to the middle, flavors of chocolate, plum, cherry, and cinnamon. Then, on the back, it became cocoa and tobacco leaf.

But it wasn't done there. A finish of plum, leather, clove and very dry oak refused to give up. In the end, the clove hung around the longest, until cocoa came in for a brief encore.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  To say that this Maker's Private Selection was complex would be an understatement. There was so much going on, each time I sipped I thought I'd miss something, and that kept me coming back for more. Not only was I simply enjoying this Bourbon, but I also became engaged in trying to identify everything. This is one of the more unusual, delicious Bourbons I've had in 2020, and I've had some great ones.  Obviously, this runs away with my Bottle rating.  Cheers!

Mahen's locations:

  • Liquor Baron, 813 Phillips Blvd, Sauk City
  • Mahen’s Liquor East, 4276 East Towne Blvd, Madison
  • Mahen’s Liquor University Ave, 2909 University Ave Ste D, Madison
  • Mahen’s Liquor Oregon, 905 N Main St, Oregon
  • Main Street Liquor, 216 Main St, Lodi
  • Sadhana Wine Shop, 36 S Bassett St, Madison

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Russell's Reserve "Turkey Drop" Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

As God is my witness, I thought Turkeys could fly!

If you recognize that quote, then you're in the know on what is probably one of the most famous, funny lines uttered on network television.  That's from WKRP in Cincinnati and, if you're unfamiliar with this line, do yourself a favor and do a web search.

Earlier this month, I reviewed Russell's Reserve "WI Whiskey Sipper" pick for The Speakeasy_WI. That barrel sold out in less than a week. Well, lucky for everyone in the area, we did another Russell's Reserve pick, this time for Neil's Liquor in Madison. We had a similar picking crew, consisting of Troy Mancusi, Dan O'Connell of Neil's, and myself, along with special guest pickers, the world-famous Fred Swanson, Greg Kuhlman, and our in-house Wild Turkey expert, Jon Watson

We wound up selecting another Camp Nelson pick, this time barrelled on November 9, 2009. Barrel 19-0533 aged on the first level of Rack 15, and was dumped at 116.38° on September 19, 2019.  It yielded only 180 bottles. Retail is $50.99, and we called it Turkey Drop. Like all Russell's Reserve Bourbons, this one is bottled at 110°.  Turkey Drop dropped today.

In my Glencairn glass, Turkey Drop appears as a medium amber. It left a thin rim and very fat, very slow legs to inch their way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

The nose was very floral and took a bit to get past that. But, once that happened, aromas of vanilla and light oak appeared, and behind that, it became fruity and spicy.  Inhaling through my lips was very heavy vanilla.

The mouthfeel was thin and coating. This changed a bit from when we picked it, I remembered it having a very thick texture. The first thing that strikes the palate is caramel, which is also lighter than when we picked it, but at mid-palate, it is a vanilla bomb. Not just vanilla, but an explosion of it.  That vanilla moved to the back of the palate, coating everywhere before a subtle black pepper took over. 

The finish is long-lasting with that pepper and light oak. But, the vanilla came back a second time and just hung on the tongue and my throat. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  As I've stated several times, I'm very picky about attaching my name to any barrel pick. If you recall from my previous Russell's pick, I was not a fan of Wild Turkey and my eyes have recently been opened to what can be done with it. You can buy this one with confidence, and if you're even thinking about it, the time to get over to Neil's is now, because this one won't be available very long. This one's a Bottle.



Addendum:  It took just over 48 hours to sell out this barrel!  This was one of the Top Five picks I've ever been part of and I'm so thrilled for those of you who were able to get a bottle. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

WhistlePig 10-Year Single Barrel Rye (Niemuth's Southside Market) Review & Tasting Notes

I am not a fan of Canadian Rye.  It isn't really any specific Canadian Rye, it is the category itself.  It is not due to some amount of whiskey snobbery (which I try desperately to avoid) but mostly because I find Canadian Rye just not very good.

There are basically three rules as it applies to Canadian whisky:

  1. It must be mashed in Canada;
  2. It must be distilled in Canada; and
  3. It must be aged at least three years in small wood barrels in Canada

Wait a minute... there's nothing there about the mashbill!  You forgot that!

No, no I did not. Believe it or not, for Canadian Rye to be considered Canadian Rye, it requires not one single grain of actual rye.  Not one, single grain at all. There are also no rules about adding artificial coloring or flavoring.  

When the folks at Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton asked me to review their WhistlePig 10-year Single Barrel, I asked if it was from MGP or Alberta Distillers.  When they told me Alberta Distillers, my heart sank a bit. But, it had been some time since I've had anything to do with anything Canadian and it was time to suck it up and review the category.  You know, that whole #DrinkCurious philosophy thing.

Let's start off with the facts:  Niemuth's WhistlePig is nicknamed the Happy Honey Beast. It came from Barrel #72355 and rested in Warehouse 1, Rick G, and Level 2.  Did it rest in Vermont for all of its 10 years?  Likely not.  Did it rest in Canada at least three years?  Probably.  WhistlePig claims they rescued aged stock before bringing it to Vermont and then aging it in new, American oak with a Bourbon Finish. It was then bottled at 118.5° and this barrel yielded 132 bottles. Niemuth's has this priced at $89.99 for a 750ml.  Alberta's ryes are, despite the lack of Canadian regulations, 100% rye content. 

It is also a Straight Rye.  From that, we can assume there is no artificial flavoring or coloring, and I'd assume it aged on the WhistlePig farm at least two years.

Appearance:  In my glass, this WhistlePig appeared as a deep amber.  It left a thin rim but created a thick, wavy curtain before dropping down to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of dry oak, cinnamon were prevalent.  That dry oak was very strong.  But, behind that were walnut and cherries.  And then, just before fooling myself in thinking I'd identified it all, there was a punch of caramel.  When I inhaled through my lips, that caramel continued, which was followed by honeysuckle.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was very thin and oily.  Sometimes a thin mouthfeel thickens up and becomes coating after a few sips. That didn't happen with the Happy Honey Beast. At the front of the palate, flavors of cocoa and cinnamon were prevalent. That spice then changed up to spearmint. At mid-palate, it was coffee and rye spice.  And, then, out of nowhere, on the back, the honey appeared, making sense of this whisky's nickname. 

Finish:  The finish of smoky rye spice, clove, and vanilla fooled me into believing it was very short.  But, before I took my next sip, it all came back to make for a very long, dry finish. 

Before I get to my rating, for curiosity's sake I added two drops of distilled water to see what would happen by proofing it down.  The nose got very minty, but on the palate, the spearmint quality disappeared entirely, allowing the caramel to shine through. The clove on the finish changed up to the elusive spearmint and this time, there was no pause in the finish, it just kept building. The dryness on the finish went away, but it exaggerated the smokiness.

Between the two, I preferred it neat.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I started off saying I am not a fan of Canadian Rye. There are several things going on with the Happy Honey Beast.  It threw me for at least three loops.  I'm used to that happening once, or occasionally, twice. But I don't recall any doing it a third time until now. That's exciting. Moreover, in a blind tasting, I guarantee I would not identify this as Canadian.  It gets bonus points from me there.  The $89.99 is a bit steep, but this seems to be an average price for WhistlePig 10.

This is a better barrel compared to several of the other WhistlePig 10's I've tried. For a Canadian Rye, I would say this is very good. If you're a WhistlePig fan, Happy Honey Beast is an easy Bottle.  For those who haven't tried WhistlePig yet, you'll probably want to sample this before you buy it, but since it is a store pick, you're not going to find this one available at a bar.

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

Niemuth's "Full Boar" Driftless Glen Straight Rye Single Barrel Review & Tasting Notes

I often find myself gravitating to "store picks" of certain brands of whiskeys instead of just buying standard releases.  Examples of this include Four Roses, Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace, and Driftless Glen.

Driftless Glen? You've not heard of that?  If you've not, you soon will. Driftless Glen is a distillery (local to me) in Baraboo, Wisconsin. They've been in business about five years, they distill a variety of spirits, but the two that interest me are their Bourbons and Ryes because, you know, whiskey.  I've been involved with barrel picks from Driftless Glen and I've seen how quickly this little distillery has grown in popularity across the country.

To me, there are two major categories of American Rye. Oh, there are subcategories as well, but they all seem to boil down to young and old Ryes.  Older Rye is typically more mellowed and younger Rye is generally bolder.  I happen to enjoy both and don't compare the two against each other because that's really unfair.

Recently I acquired a bottle of a single barrel pick for Niemuth's Southside Market, located in Appleton, Wisconsin. This bottle was provided to me in exchange for an unbiased review, and I thank them for this opportunity. This comes from Barrel 380, where the Rye aged 49 months. It was bottled at a barrel proof of 123.6°. Like all Driftless Glen Ryes, it is made from a mash of 75% rye and 25% malted barley. Niemuth's sells this for $54.99 per bottle. 

Appearance:  In my Glencairn, this Rye presented as a deep, very dark amber. It created a thin rim that led to fat droplets to quickly work its way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of fruity rye and floral notes were immediately evident, even before I brought the glass close to my face. Underneath those was light oak and cinnamon. There was also a hint of ethanol. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all dark chocolate.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin but coating. On the front, there was the obvious spicy rye which gave way to strong walnut. Mid-palate, I picked up coffee and tobacco leaf, both of which continued on the spicy theme. But, on the back, it was the rich, dark chocolate to even things out. 

Finish:  Clove, rye spice, and smoked oak danced along the back of the throat for a very long finish. While the rye spice and oak eventually waned, clove continued to build well beyond. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There are many people who have a rough time shelling out $55 for a four-plus year Rye. I would still consider this to be a younger Rye, and if that's not your thing, then you could take a pass but I believe that would be a mistake. You also aren't going to find this sitting at your local watering hole. I really enjoyed this Full Boar Driftless Glen pick and am very happy to have it in my library. As such, it earns the coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Rat Pick - Knob Creek 120

Barrel picking is a blast. I've been involved in many, many picks of various Bourbons and Ryes. I've never, though, had my face appear on a bottle's label (I'm the one in the middle). There's also Troy Mancusi, owner of The Speakeasy_WI and Matt Bents, owner of Riley's Wines of the World.  We had a great time picking this 14-year old Knob Creek 120.

This is the second-best whiskey I've ever picked, the first being a Four Roses OBSO... and to prove how excellent this Knob Creek is, the entire barrel sold out in three days!

I had my own write-up, but Matt Bents did a great job... here are his notes:

Aromas of maraschino cherry, crème brûlée, toasted hazelnuts, vanilla, orange peel, and fennel. Slight sweetness on the palate with foundations of crème brûlée, clove, black pepper and mint. Honeyed baked apples, cinnamon, and hazelnut layer on more complexities. Adding a few drops of water focuses the aromatics but amplified the baking spices. Even at 120 proof, this drinks best full-strength. Finish is off-dry with lots of black pepper, cherry, vanilla, and cinnamon evolving as the warmth of the whiskey continue to shine.

I'll add that there is no need whatsoever to proof this one down. If you were lucky enough to get a bottle, congratulations!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Four Roses Single Barrel - Pierce's OBSV

Four Roses Single Barrel picks can be a blast. The first barrel pick I was ever involved in was a Four Roses pick and it is one of my better life experiences. One of the reasons Four Roses is such a different, exciting pick is they have ten different recipes from which to choose, whereas if other distilleries have that many, the fact eludes me.

The recipes consist of two mashbills:  B is a high-rye mash of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley.  E is a low-rye mash of 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley. In addition, there are five strains of yeast:  F, which typically has herbal notes; K, which typically is slightly spicy; O, which is typically rich and fruity; Q, which typically has a floral essence; and V, which is typically delicate fruit.  

The way to read a Four Roses recipe is O__S__.  The second letter would always be B or E, and the last letter would always be F, K, O, Q, or V.  A standard Four Roses Single Barrel is always OBSV, meaning it is going to be spicier due to the high-rye and have a delicate fruity quality. 

Today I'm pouring an OBSV store pick for BWP Pierce's of Baraboo, Wisconsin. This is a 100° Bourbon that has been aged seven years and four months and retail is $39.99. This will be an interesting experience because I don't typically pour 100° Four Roses and I've never had such a young barrel pick from them. However, in reality, age is just a number and while folks typically seek out older whiskeys, there are excellent younger whiskeys and terrible older ones, and vice-versa. It all depends on the individual barrel. This particular barrel is 19-6M and comes from Warehouse JW.

Everything boils down to how enjoyable a whiskey is and as such, it is time to #DrinkCurious

In my glass, the appearance was a rich caramel color. It left a very thick rim on the wall of the Glencairn with slow, fat droplets that I wouldn't really describe as legs because they never really made it back down to the pool. They just stuck.

The nose was light and delicate. I immediately questioned it and dismissed the same as I reminded myself this was not barrel-proof Bourbon. The initial aroma was very fruity, more than I expected from V yeast. Caramel and vanilla hid beneath the fruit. Underneath that was a slight spiciness of the rye. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was rich vanilla.

The mouthfeel was softer than I expected. Again, this isn't barrel-proof. This pick was doing an excellent job at challenging my preconceived notions. It was light and oily and coated my tongue. Flavors of oak quickly gave way to the rich fruit. Mid-palate turned to vanilla and allspice. The back was clove and oak. It was interesting how the oak started and ended the cycle.

The finish was extremely long. It didn't burn but it definitely warmed. The oak hung around, but so did the clove and allspice. It took almost five minutes before the Energizer Bunny finish gave up the ghost and melted away.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I was skeptical. I avoid 100° Four Roses because I love the barrel-proof versions. Saying that this one has me damned curious about what I've missed and overlooked in the past. Shame on me for that. This OBSV was very enjoyable and I'm going to open my eyes and include 100-proofers as I hunt down store picks. Maybe they won't all be this enjoyable, but the BWP Pierce's pick is getting a Bottle rating from me. 


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Elijah Craig Single Barrel - BWP Pierce's Express Market Pick Review & Tasting Notes

One of the great joys of the Wonderful World of Whiskey is the invitation to do a private barrel pick. It is not only a lot of fun but a great honor.  And, if you're very serious about picking barrels, you have to go in prepared to reject all the samples if they won't be something you're proud to have your name associated with.

My goal when picking a barrel is to find something unusual. Some stores or bars like "safe" picks, where they know it will taste just like the standard release.  I typically reject those.  After all, if it isn't something special, why bother going through the trouble?

Last fall I was invited to pick a barrel of Elijah Craig for BWP - Pierce's Express Market in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The goal was to have this selected and in the store by Christmas. As it turned out, BWP received the barrel just a couple weeks ago. BWP has this single barrel Bourbon listed at $29.99 and it carries no age statement.

The Elijah Craig private barrel program is always 94°. Personally, I wish they'd offer a barrel proof option, but that's not going to happen. Saying that, one of the things I appreciate about the Elijah Craig private barrel program is its affordability. There are a lot of barrel picks that get pricey. Not so with Elijah Craig.

The good news is it has been so long ago since I picked this, I don't completely remember what was picked. That's not quite going into this blind, but it is enough to where any notes I had then are long forgotten, so this is almost a new Bourbon to me. Time to #DrinkCurious...

In my Glencairn, the appearance was typical Elijah Craig's deep amber. It left the thinnest rim on the glass. The rim hung on for several moments before it created thick droplets that just would not release back to the pool of liquid sunshine.  This was a surprise because when I tasted the samples, it was with plastic cups.

After letting the glass rest for about ten minutes, thick fruit permeated the air around me. As I nosed the glass, it started as berry heavy. Underneath that berry was aromas of vanilla and oak.  When I inhaled through my lips, fresh cream rolled all over my palate.

The initial mouthfeel was like the rim:  incredibly thin.  A subsequent sip was much less so, and the more I sipped the creamier it became.  It could have been a factor of the tingling on my hard palate, but I distinctly remember the same experience with the initial sample. Vanilla was up front, followed by red fruit and black pepper at mid-palate. The fruit gave way to oak, but the black pepper remained. There was, interestingly enough, really nothing on the back.

The very long finish consisted of the charred oak you'd normally expect from Elijah Craig. But, added to that was clove that hung on to the front, eventually yielding to a sweet caramel before melting away. I chose the word melting purposefully because that's the best description available.

Finally, this one drinks heavier than the advertised 94°. It doesn't "burn" but it definitely grabs the attention of your hard palate.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Let's get real here. I picked this, obviously, I'm biased.  Remember my goal:  I always want to find something unusual or unique. The BWP - Pierce's Express Market pick fits that description. I am honored to have been a part of this pick and this absolutely rates as a Bottle.  If you're in Wisconsin, make the drive to Baraboo. You'll be happy.