Showing posts with label whisky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label whisky. Show all posts

Monday, March 6, 2023

Old Forester Series 117 "Warehouse H" Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


There are many iconic American whiskey brands on the market. Old Forester has the unique capacity to call itself the oldest continuously produced brand and the first to be exclusively offered in sealed bottles. Yes, the distillery was one of only six in the country allowed to continue operations during Prohibition.


George Gavin Brown founded the brand in 1870. As a pharmaceutical salesman, Brown understood the need to keep things people would ingest sterile. He also knew there were shady characters who would add nasty things to barrels of whiskey to stretch stocks and increase profits (which led to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897). The solution was to prepackage his whiskey in sealed bottles.


Brown teamed up with George Forman (not the infamous prizefighter), and their company was called Brown-Forman. When Forman passed away in 1901, Brown bought out Forman’s half of the organization but retained the name. In 1917, when George died, his son, Owsley, took the helm and kept the business growing. Today, 153 years later, Brown-Forman is publicly traded, and the Chairman of the Board is George Gavin Brown IV.


The 117 Series of whiskies from Old Forester is their limited edition label that debuted in the fall of 2021. The newest edition, just released, is called Warehouse H.


Warehouse H is symbolic of Old Forester’s growth after WWII. Construction on the brick warehouse began in 1946, housing 50,000 barrels. The four story, eight chamber warehouse was designed to be heat cycled in the winter months when temperatures dropped below 60 degrees and the maturation process ceased. Warehouse H is unusual in its heat cycling profile with the 1st floor sometimes hitting the highest temperatures.” – Old Forester


Warehouse H Bourbon is made from the same mash as its other Bourbons: 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. It goes into the barrel at 125°, sleeping the next several years in #3-charred oak. Warehouse H is available at the distillery or if you book a stay at Old Forester’s “The Sleepeasy,” a Prohibition-themed apartment on Whiskey Row. A 375ml, 49% ABV (98°) package retails for $59.99.


I must thank Old Forester for this opportunity to #DrinkCurious. The sample was sent in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s get to it, shall we?


Appearance: I sipped this Bourbon neat from my Glencairn glass. Inside, the liquid presented as cinnamon brown. It generated a thinner rim that released wide, wavy tears.


Nose: The aroma consisted of lemon peel, cherry, plum, cinnamon powder, and toasted oak. The cherry and plum notes stood out. A punch of caramel rolled through my mouth when I drew that air inside.


Palate: Thick and oily, the texture allowed me to concentrate on this Bourbon’s flavors. It began with caramel, vanilla, and graham crackers. I found lemon and orange zests, plum, and cherry as it moved to mid-palate. The back offered tastes of toasted oak, chocolate, and clove.


Finish: Citrus remained throughout the finish, accompanied by vanilla, caramel, rye spice, and oak. It warmed my mouth and throat and lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Ignoring a couple of Old Forester Birthday Bourbons I’ve tried over the years, Warehouse H may be my favorite Old Forester I’ve sipped yet. I love 1920; I have had some incredible Single Barrels, and this one eclipses them all. It is a shame that this can’t be procured other than at the distillery because I would love to pick up a Bottle for my whiskey library. If you come across this, don’t pass it up. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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


Friday, March 3, 2023

Lock & Load American Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

One of the essential tools a retail marketing professional has is packaging. If you can get the consumer to stop dead in their tracks and look at your product, you’ve already won half the battle. And, in a liquor store environment, with brands using bottles of the same size and shape, most concentrate on differentiation via the label.


Occasionally, you get a brand that goes whole hog with a unique bottle design. Sometimes, the liquid inside is decent. Many times, you realize that you only have a cool decanter.


Last month, I visited Antioch Fine Wine & Liquors in Antioch, Illinois. As I was perusing the aisles, I saw a bottle that caught my attention. It was shaped like a bullet, with a copper jacket and everything. Wow, that’s nifty; what is it? The marketer excellently did their job.


I picked up the 100ml bottle, priced at $6.99, and the label proclaimed Lock & Load American Bourbon Whiskey. I asked my friend who owns the shop to tell me about it. He laughed and said he didn’t even know they had it; one of his employees must have ordered it.


Now my curiosity was piqued. The small print on the bottle indicated it was distilled in Indiana (meaning MGP/Ross & Squibb), that it was aged a minimum of six months, and, oh yeah, it was re-imported by Aiko Importers, Inc. Re-imported?


Time for a segway. On the television show News Radio, the boss, played by Stephen Root, was named Jimmy James. He wrote a book called Jimmy James: Capitalist Lion Tamer. The book was translated into Japanese and then re-translated back into English, and the translated title was Jimmy James: Macho Business Donkey Wrangler. So, when I read the term re-imported, my mind went to Jimmy James’ book for whatever reason.


Aiko Importers, Inc. is located in Pendergrass, Georgia (although the bottle states Charleston, South Carolina). Its portfolio includes a lot of fruity adult beverages ranging from vodka to wine to RTDs. They also carry various firearms-related decanter packages, including Lock & Load. There are three options: a 100ml bullet, a 1.75L bullpup, and a 1.75L carbine.


The 100ml bullet has a suggested retail price of $12.99. As you can tell from above, I paid far less. I can tell you that at $12.99, I probably would have said, This is cute, and then placed it back on the shelf. The Bourbon inside is 40% ABV (80°). There’s no indication of which MGP Bourbon mashbill was used.


Let’s #DrinkCurious and taste if this is seven bucks well-spent.


Appearance: I drank this Bourbon neat in my Glencairn glass. The liquid was bright yellow gold, and it possessed a thinner rim. A wavy curtain of tears fell back into the pool.


Nose: I smelled corn as I brought the whiskey to my face. I swirled the glass. I tilted it. I changed the angles of my nose, alternating from my left nostril to my right and back. All of that finagling and acrobatics rewarded me with an aroma of corn. I inhaled through my lips and tasted - wait for it - corn. Okay. No worries. Some good whiskeys have one-note bouquets. I can’t name any, but I’m sure they exist.


Palate: The mouthfeel was thick and coated my tongue. The front of my palate tasted of Corn Chex. The middle tasted of Corn Chex with a drop of vanilla. The back tasted of cinnamon and cardboard. For all I could tell, it could have been the box the Corn Chex came in.


Finish: As I mulled its cardboardishness, I frowned as the finish lingered.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I could wordsmith a few sentences here to tie everything up and provide you with my recommendation, but why bother? I don’t think I would even waste this on a cocktail. Whatever whiskey your local watering hole has on the rail is better than this. Lock & Load is why a Bust rating exists. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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



Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Hercules Mulligan Eyr & Rye RTD Cocktail Review & Tasting Notes

Tailor. Irish immigrant. Spy. Hero of the American Revolution. His name? Mulligan. Hercules Mulligan.


“[He ran] his sartorial business at 23 Queen Street in Lower Manhattan. His most frequent customers were British officers who trusted his friendly and talkative demeanor, plus this ‘Agent Double-Oh-Needle’ offered them the finest Spirits that loosened their tongues and revealed many a secret. In fact, Hercules saved George Washington’s life on two occasions through highly-classified information careless British officers spilled as their measures were being taken. The King’s men wanted to capture Washington and get rid of him, but precious intelligence saved his skin…” – Hercules Mulligan Company


Hercules Mulligan was the real thing, as even the CIA acknowledges him! I can’t help but wonder if, like another famous spy, he prefers his cocktails shaken, not stirred?


Hercules Mulligan’s Eyr & Rye follows the highly-successful 2019 release of its Ready To Drink (RTD) cocktail, Rum & Rye. Eyr & Rye is a twist on the classic Manhattan by adding a bit of Irish magic to the concoction with Irish whiskey, American Rye, and cherry bitters. It isn’t a watered-down cocktail; it rings in at 43% ABV (86°).


This inaugural release is on 2000 bottles and is exclusively available via Flaviar (an online spirits membership club) and Caskers. You can expect to pay $49.99 for a 750ml bottle.


Before I #DrinkCurious, I must thank the Hercules Mulligan Company for a sample of this RTD cocktail in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s start sipping!


Appearance: I approached this review the same way I do nearly any other; I used a Glencairn glass. The liquid’s color was that of black cherry. A bold rim generated slow, sticky tears.


Nose: The aroma of cherry bitters was prominent. I was also able to pick out mint, which is attributable to the American Rye whiskey. I didn’t find any smells leading me to the Irish content. Inhaling through my lips offered nothing different.  


Palate: The thin, oily, and quite slick mouthfeel included a cooling sensation as if this were iced. It wasn’t; I sipped this neat. Cherry, vanilla, and raw honey were on the front of my palate. Midway through, orange citrus and more honey seemed to park in place. As it hit the back of my palate, a kiss of mint melded with bitters and tannins.


Finish: Despite swallowing liquid, I could swear it was glued to my mid-palate. It didn’t move. I could swallow. I could run my tongue against my hard palate. And, yet, the flavors of raw honey, cherry bitters, and citrus remained.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The finish was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in my years of whiskey appreciation. This cocktail seemed like a cross between a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, and a dollop of honey. While I enjoy sipping an occasional cocktail, I genuinely suck at making them. Eyr & Rye, like Rum & Rye, makes that easier.


I'm giving Eyr & Rye a Bottle rating, just as I did with Rum & Rye. It is delicious and you're going to love it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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



Monday, February 27, 2023

Hakata 10-, 12-, 16-, and 18-Years Japanese Whisky Reviews & Tasting Notes


I don’t get as much opportunity to sample Japanese whiskies as I wish I could. It isn’t a matter of finding it; Japanese whisky is everywhere. Instead, I don’t find myself thinking about it. When I peruse local liquor stores, I see their Japanese selections but don’t stop and browse. That’s a mistake because many fine Japanese whiskies are out there. I know because I’ve reviewed a handful.


As such, when ImpEx Beverages, the exclusive US distributor for Hakata Whisky, offered a chance to review four of its expressions, I immediately took them up on it.


The requirements for Japanese whisky have been recently revised, and that’s because stocks had been dwindling while demand rose exponentially. The solution for some involved importing bulk Scotch whisky and having a distillery rebottle it as its own. On April 1, 2021, the new industry-enforced standards went into effect, which state:


• Distillers must always use malted grains but may also include other cereal grains.

• Water used to make whisky must be extracted in Japan.

• Saccharification (conversion of starches into sugars or mashing), fermentation, and distillation must occur at a Japanese distillery.

• Whisky must be matured in wooden casks stored in Japan for at least three years.

• Bottling must occur only in Japan, with a minimum strength of 40% abv.

• Plain caramel coloring may be used.

• Whiskies that don’t meet the above requirements may not use the names of geographical locations in Japan, the Japanese flag, or the names of people that evoke the country in their labeling. 


Hakata Whisky is distilled and matured in Fukuoka, Japan by the Hikari Distillery (which was founded in 1912). The mash of the whisky is 100% barley. A fraction of this barley has been fermented with Koji providing healthy enzymes for fermentation and creating the highly sought after and delicious, savory taste known as Umami. 

The Sherry casks this whisky is aged in are kept in traditional style warehouses as well as a few open-air warehouses where they are exposed to humid summertime temperatures of 95°F and winter temperatures of around 38°F.  As a result, the whisky is bold and almost classical in flavor; retaining a freshness that is truly unique.” – Hakata Whisky


Hakata Whisky offers four expressions: 10, 12, 16, and 18 years. Thankfully, ImpEx Beverages provided me with samples of each in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s #DrinkCurious and discover what these are all about. For the record, I’m sipping all four neat in my trusty Glencairn glass.


The first whisky up is Hataka 10. It is bottled at 42% ABV (84°) and runs about $79.99. It is available in a 700ml bottle.


Appearance: Burnt umber is the best description for the color, but it is even darker than that. A thick rim collapsed into slow tears.


Nose: An aroma of rich plum and dark cherry tickled my nostrils. It made me smile, and I had to stop myself from already in love with the whisky. Caramel and oak followed. When I inhaled through my lips, dried berries rolled across my tongue.  


Palate: The texture was soft, but the flavors were anything but. Raisin, plum, and cherry cola hit the front of my palate. Midway through, I came across candied nuts, nutmeg, and caramel, while tobacco leaf, leather, and oak formed the back.


Finish: The leather from the back became ancient while removing any moisture that existed in my mouth. As it faded, oak and cherry cola remained. The experience lasted several minutes and left a slight warming sensation in my throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: If sherry bombs are your jam, you will go wild over Hakata 10. There was nothing not to enjoy about it, from beginning to end. I enjoyed the bone-dry finish. It is reasonably priced, and I can’t think of any suitable rating other than a Bottle.




Next, I tried Hakata 12. It is packaged in a 700ml bottle at 42% ABV (84°) and costs a suggested $99.99.


Appearance: I wasn’t aware that whisky could get darker than the 10-year expression, but Hakata 12 made it possible — I could barely see through this one. Fast, watery tears fell from a massive rim.


Nose: A slightly drier nose of cherry, plum, leather, and caramel greeted my olfactory sense. As I pulled the air into my mouth, caramel and oak were in tango.


Palate: The texture was light and unassuming. Nutmeg, cherry, and plum were on the front, leading to leather, caramel, and cola at mid-palate. The back featured tobacco leaf, roasted almond, and oak.


Finish: Strangely, there was a kiss of saline as I swallowed. However, it didn’t detract from the cherry and plum notes but seemed to enhance them.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I relished Hakata 12’s fruity flavors, especially with the finish. I appreciated that it wasn’t as dry as the 10-year expression. I don’t believe anyone would have qualms about the price, and I am happy to confer my Bottle rating for it.




The third whisky in the rotation is Hakata 16. It is available at 42% ABV (84°), and a 700ml bottle is priced at around $149.99.

Appearance: I was taken aback when looking at this whisky’s color because it was much lighter than the 10- and 12-year expressions, presenting as a deep orange amber. A husky rim released slow, sticky tears.


Note: Various nuts combined with raisins, chocolate, and vanilla to form a sweet and prominent fragrance. The taste of red grapes was on the vapor.


Palate: A silky mouthfeel led to fruity notes of green grape, prune, and cherry on the front of my palate. Mid-palate brought rich, thick honey; the back’s flavors were clove, oak, and chocolate.


Finish: Green grape and prune made for most of the finish, with only a hint of oak and chocolate. Based on my experience with the two previous expressions, the duration was shorter than anticipated.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: While Hakata 10 and 12 were obvious siblings, Hakata 16 seemed to have been adopted. It could have been from an entirely different distillery. I appreciate the contrast and found it almost refreshing. The first two were delicious, but I was concerned this would be more on a similar theme. We’re getting into serious dollars; I would be more comfortable with it being about $20.00 less. That value statement only precludes Hakata 16 from taking a Bottle rating; it earns a Bar.   




Last, but only because of its age statement, is Hakata 18.  It commands a $189.99 price tag for a 42% ABV (84°), 700ml bottle.


Appearance: We’re now back to darker colors. In fact, side-by-side, Hakata 18 and Hakata 12 look exactly the same. Unlike the previous three, the rim of the 18-year-old whisky was fragile and yielded fast tears.


Nose: Chocolate, almond, toffee, and dried cherry gave a pleasant aroma. I found honey filling my mouth as I drew in the air.


Palate: A rich, silky texture coated my tongue. It caused me to lose my concentration which doesn’t happen often. Nutmeg, almond, and tobacco leaf were on the front, while raw honey and cherry controlled the middle. I got big chocolate flavors that married clove and oak on the back.


Finish: Cherry, honey, clove, almond, and chocolate formed a complicated finish with a medium duration. It also ended with a syrupy texture, which was far different than the mouthfeel.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The lack of consistency in the texture left me dumbfounded. With all the whiskies I’ve tried, this may be a first. If you can spend this much on a whisky, Hakata 18 is worth consideration. Its pure uniqueness was enough to tip the scale for my Bottle rating.


Final Thoughts: Hakata 10 was my favorite, followed by 18, 12, and 16. I’m very impressed with what I tasted, and whether you take my Bottle or Bar ratings, I think you’ll be happy. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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



Friday, February 24, 2023

Barrell Bourbon Batch 034 Review & Tasting Notes

Barrell Craft Spirits is one of the more consistently excellent blenders around. That’s not to suggest it is perfect at what it does. Still, if you were going to take a chance and risk purchasing a bottle without knowing anything about it, you’d likely be on the winning side of that bet. I’ve had many pours from this brand, and I can count on one hand how many were not top-notch and have fingers left over.


While blending isn’t simple, Barrell makes things less complicated. It is located in Louisville and sources from distilleries around the country. Everything it produces is barrel-proof. If you think something is too strong, you change things by adding water. That’s on you; Barrell won’t do that on your behalf.


Batch 034 is a Bourbon that carries a six-year age statement. That’s the youngest whiskey in the batch. The oldest is 15 years, and there are also eight and ten-year Bourbons. Barrell sourced these Bourbons distilled from Indiana (MGP), Tennessee (George Dickel), and Kentucky (Jim Beam). The eight year had a high-corn mash and provided cherry, apricot, and hazelnut flavors. Six-year-old high-rye barrels possessing cinnamon and allspice notes were added to the blend and allowed to rest for several months. The ten- and 15-year barrels were chosen for earthy, tannin qualities and were vatted with the others, forming the final recipe.  


It weighs in at 114.62° and carries an MSRP of $90.00. Typically, Barrell whiskeys are easy to find at local liquor stores, no matter where you are.


Before I go further, I must thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample of Batch 034 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: I observed this Bourbon neat in my Glencairn glass. An orange-reddish amber produced a fragile rim that disintegrated as it released all its tears at once.


Nose: Dried apricot, plum, cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg, and oak were easy to discern, even at the first whiff. When I continued sniffing, I found vanilla and orange zest. As I inhaled the vapor through my lips, there was a distinct sensation of rose petals.  


Palate: Wow, the mouthfeel on this was thick and creamy! The more I sipped, the thicker it became, almost like syrup. Vanilla cream, nutmeg, and orange peel hit the front of my palate. Midway through, I tasted what I swore was Mr. Pibb, full of spicy cherry and plum notes. The back featured flavors of peanuts, cocoa, and dry oak.


Finish: Limp Bizkit recorded a song called Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle). The repetitive chorus goes Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, and that’s a pretty good description of this whiskey’s duration after the swallow. Cherry-vanilla cola, peanut, and dry oak are what remained.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: You’d think with all the ABV this Bourbon has, it would bring on the heat. Nope. There was a warming quality, but it went down easy. Of all the Barrell Bourbons I’ve had, this drank so far below its stated proof that I had to recheck the label. And, like pretty much every Tennessee-sourced barrel that Barrell selects, there was a total lack of Dickel’s classic Flintstone vitamin, chalky taste.


I couldn’t get enough of this Bourbon’s texture. It kept me returning repeatedly, and when I consider how easy those sips are, Batch 034 falls into that dangerous category. I believe this may be my favorite “standard” batch of Barrell Bourbon I’ve had to date, including Batch 032, which I was in love with. So, yes, Batch 034 earns every bit of my Bottle rating. If I had $90.00 burning a hole in my pocket, this is what I would select to spend it on. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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



Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Murray McDavid Madeira Cask Finished Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


I'll make things simple if you’ve heard the term independent bottler but don’t know what that means. Unlike sourcing whiskeys and rebranding them, an independent bottler will disclose and prominently display who the distiller is on the label. The goal can be to acquire an off-profile barrel or to do something special with the barrel that the distillery would not normally do, such as an unusual finish. Or, the distillery may usually send its stocks off to be blended with others, whereas the independent bottler will sell that single barrel for whiskey enthusiasts to try.

Murray McDavid is one such independent bottler that specializes in Scotch. Founded in 1994 by London-based wine merchants Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin, along with Gordon Wright of Springbank Distillery, the trio went ahead and reopened the shuttered Islay’s Bruichladdich Distillery with Jim McEwan. The distillery was sold to Remy Cointreau in 2012, and then Murray McDavid was sold to Aceo, Ltd.

Murray McDavid has a philosophy of Inspired Scotch Whisky, which it defines as, “Questioning the standard conventions of maturing whisky in commonplace casks, our team developed visionary maturation techniques, seeking exceptionally well-sourced oak casks from the very best vineyards, bodegas across Europe and whiskey-makers of America.

The group has several lines of expressions, one of which is Cask Craft. It highlights single malts from around Scotland while utilizing various kinds of wood. Today I’m sampling Madeira Cask Finished, which was distilled by Speyside’s Linkwood Distillery. As the name suggests, this single malt matured in Madeira wine barriques.

Madeira is a fortified wine, much like sherry, from grapes grown on the Portuguese Madeira Islands off the African coast. Madeira has been in production since the 15th century. In modern times, it is made by oxidizing the wine via a combination of age and heat. When aged in barrels (the process is called cantiero), the process takes anywhere from 20 to 100 years. But the wine is so stable that it will survive essentially forever, even after being uncorked!

Madeira Cask Finished carries no age statement, is naturally colored, and is packaged at 44.5% ABV (89°) in 700ml bottles. Murray McDavid is imported exclusively by Keeper’s Quest, Inc. While the US pricing is not yet disclosed, it should be affordable, as its native price is £34.00.

I’m almost ready to #DrinkCurious. Before I do, I must take a moment to thank Keeper’s Quest for providing me a sample of Madeira Finish in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance: I explored this single malt Scotch via a neat pour in my Glencairn glass. A deep, golden liquid formed a medium-thin rim that released a wavy curtain back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose: A big, fruity aroma composed of green grape, apricot, apple, and honeycomb flowed from the glass to my face. A taste of thick, raw honey rolled across my tongue when I drew the air through my lips.

Palate: A creamy mouthfeel carried flavors of golden raisin, dried apricot, and lemon zest to the front of my palate. Next came cranberry, honey, and hazelnut. The back featured cocoa powder, dried oak, and ginger.

Finish: Long and lingering, I experienced ginger, oak, honey, and hazelnut on the finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Murray McDavid Madeira Cask Finished was an adventure in fruits, nuts, and wood. It was well-balanced, correctly proofed, and had a rich texture. Unless you have an aversion to sweeter single malts, this is a lovely experience. Assuming it is priced similarly to the pound sterling, this whisky is a winner. I’m thrilled to have it in my whisky library and bestow my Bottle rating on it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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


Monday, February 20, 2023

Woodford Reserve’s "Historic Barrel Entry" Bourbon (Winter 2022 Master's Collection) Review & Tasting Notes

If you hear the term dusties, the person using it is talking about whiskeys made long ago. Almost always, the term is used with great fondness. You may wonder why there’s so much nostalgia surrounding dusties, and there’s a valid explanation.


You see, whiskeys made today are typically made differently than they were of yesteryear. You could have the same brand with the same mashbill and run through the same still. The whiskey could be aged in the same char level for the same period and using the same non-chill filtered methods. The proof in the bottle is the same.


So, why does the whiskey taste different? Well, there’s one part of the equation that differs: entry proof. Back in the day, the entry proof of the whiskey into the barrel was lower than in modern times. The reason is mostly economics; the higher the entry proof, the more whiskey bottles can be filled from a single barrel.


In 1935, the Federal Alcohol Administration Act set a standard for a whiskey’s entry proof to be between 80° and 110°. That remained in place until 1962 when the upper limit was raised to 125°. Most distillers were utilizing an entry proof in the neighborhood of 107°. The lower the entry proof, the better the distillate interacts with the sugars that are part of the barrel’s wood.


On the flip side, it matters when you add water. Let’s say that you plan to bottle your Bourbon at 86°, and it comes off the still at 160°. Legally, you need to bring that down 35 points before it can go in the barrel. The whiskey will age, the proof is likely to increase due to the angel’s share (evaporation) as it does, and once dumped, you’ll need to add a ton of water to get to 86°. That’s diluting a lot of flavors.


Conversely, when you dilute entry proof down to 110°, it can still gain strength when it ages. However, you will add less water once dumped because it went in at the lower proof. Thus, the flavors are richer and closer to what came from the aging process than if it was at 125°. Capiche?


Why is all of the above important? Because today I’m sipping on Woodford Reserve’s Historic Barrel Entry Bourbon, part of the 2022 Master’s Collection. Entry proof on this was 100° and was bottled at Woodford’s regular 90.4°. Otherwise, this is the same 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley mashbill that Woodford currently utilizes and aged in the same #4 charred oak barrels. It carries no age statement, and a 700ml package has a suggested retail price of $129.99.


I thank Woodford Reserve for sending me a sample of this unique Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and taste what the big deal is.


Appearance: I sipped this Bourbon neat in my trusty Glencairn glass. The burnt umber liquid offered a narrow rim with syrupy tears that crawled back into the pool.


Nose: The aroma was anything but shy, tossing a blast of rich, thick vanilla to my nostrils. Nutmeg, graham crackers, and pear followed. As I drew the air through my lips, vanilla, and pear rolled across my tongue.


Palate: The mouthfeel was oily and full-bodied. The nose was heavy on the vanilla, but the palate was incredibly fruity. The front delivered stewed bananas, blueberries, and plums, while Asian pears, black cherries, and hazelnuts were featured at mid-palate. The back was spicy with clove, oak, and cocoa powder.


Finish: The flavors of banana, thick chocolate, fresh leather, citrus, cinnamon, and clove stuck around for a medium-long duration. And, while the Bourbon was only 90.4°, my hard palate was left with a slight sizzling sensation.   


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: While I didn’t have a bottle of the standard Woodford Reserve on hand to make a head-to-head comparison, I do recall how it smelled and tasted. These cousins are far from identical. Historical Entry Barrel is an experience and one you should partake in. Yes, it is pricy, but a modern-day dusty comes around once in a blue moon. I’m happy to confer my Bottle rating for it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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