Friday, March 23, 2018

Stillhouse Black Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


When I was at Distill America X last month, I had the opportunity to try some new releases of whiskey. That’s one of many reasons why I love tasting events – it is the whole discovery aspect and finding something new to enjoy.  One of the booths I stopped by was Stillhouse Spirits Company. The owners are very nice and were kind enough to provide me with a sample of Stillhouse Black Bourbon to review with no strings attached. 


The packaging is certainly unique, and it isn’t every day that you come across Bourbon in a can, although perhaps it is because I see Stillhouse cans in nearly every liquor store I visit. They’ve certainly done a good job of getting their product distributed and because of the can, it grabs a lot of attention. The Black Bourbon is a brand new product destined to hit shelves this summer. 


The can states it is “[a] masterful blend of corn, rye, barley and limestone water. Barreled in charred new American oak, charcoal filtered, rested and mellowed in roasted small batch coffee beans …”  It carries no age statement, and as such, it is at least four years old. The can also states it is produced and bottled by Stillhouse Spirits Co., USA, which tells me that the whiskey inside is sourced. Otherwise, it would say “distilled.” It is “bottled” at 80°. 


Speaking of proof, the proof is in the pudding, and as this is a unique whiskey, it allows me to really open my mind and #DrinkCurious. 


Black Bourbon comes in two packages: a 375ml with a suggested price of $19.99 or, for $10 more, you can get a 750ml.

In the glass, the appearance was an appealing amber. Swirling it created a medium rim with medium-to-thick legs that slowly crawled back to the pool. 


At my chin, aromas of corn and coffee permeated my nostrils. Lifting the glass to lip level brought a very subtle caramel. Letting it hover just under my nostrils returned more coffee. Inhaling through my lips yielded a candy quality. 


The mouthfeel was extremely thin, and for the most part, was smooth. That smoothness can be credited to the charcoal filtering process. 


The first sip brought nothing but coffee flavor. Being one of the six Americans who doesn’t drink coffee, it was a little on the strong side. However, I never judge on the first sip. A second toned down the harshness and becomes much smoother. Just like on the nose, there was very subtle caramel, but it is mostly overwhelmed by the coffee. Underneath it all is corn sweetness. Subsequent tastes yielded nothing but coffee and corn. 


The finish was soft but kept repeating coffee. I picked up no other notes. It did nothing at all in my throat, everything was in the mouth. 


Next was where things got interesting. The package is designed to be placed in a pocket while camping or some other activity. As such, you likely aren’t packing a Glencairn glass, and you’d drink it straight from the can. Well, I wouldn’t, but that’s what the design is. In an even greater attempt to #DrinkCurious, I did exactly that.

The spout, at least on the 375ml can, is fairly small. I was unable to get much volume in my mouth. The coffee flavor was there, but so was the metal from the can. That metal taste went all the way into my teeth (if that makes any sense). Subsequent sips didn’t change that much, although it did mellow the metal out. 


I figured at this point, I’d return to the glass, and even though it is 80°, I’d try water to see if that did anything. After all, this is a #DrinkCurious moment. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you know I use an eyedropper to add two drops of water. 


The result was that the coffee got stronger on the nose, so much so that I didn’t need it anywhere near my face to sense it. The mouthfeel built body and became creamier, but the coffee then turned almost stale and sour. I tried several times to pick up a finish, but it just dissipated quickly. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I’m going to be very frank. I’m a whiskey aficionado. I lead whiskey appreciation and tasting events. Drinking out of a can isn’t my thing and I teach heavily on the importance of the right glassware to enjoy whiskey.  I appreciate finished whiskeys, I love finished whiskeys, but I don’t drink coffee. Even if I liked coffee, finishing a whiskey should enhance the flavor, not make the flavor. This is like drinking a cup of coffee that has the secondary benefit of giving you a buzz. I really kept an open mind and I really wanted to like this, but my recommendation is a Bust.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Stagg Jr - Batch 7 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


There are a handful of seasonal barrel proof whiskey releases I look forward to. They have, for the most part, been kind to me and as such, I'm willing to shell out my hard-earned money to acquire them. One such label is Stagg, Jr. Twice a year, Buffalo Trace sends out another batch to be tracked down. On the plus side, Stagg, Jr. isn't as difficult as some others to find.

Batch 7 was released in 2016 at 130° and its MSRP is $49.99. You'll likely find it closer to $54.99. Stagg, Jr. is created from a small batch of Bourbons using Buffalo Trace's #1 mash. Each barrel in the batch ranges from eight to nine years but carries no age statement.

My past experience with Stagg, Jr. gives an appearance of deep, dark amber on the glass. This may be the lightest amber of any batch I've had. Swirling it around produced a very thin rim with fat, wavy legs.

At chin level, an aroma of thick caramel is up front. Lifting it to my lips, brings honey, cinnamon, and tropical fruit. Hovering the glass under my nostrils changes it to apple. Inhaling through my mouth brings heavy vanilla and maple.

The mouthfeel is thin but coating. Something common with Stagg, Jr.'s later releases is a limited burn on the mouth, and Batch 7 doesn't stray from that commonality.

Vanilla is way up on the palate. Behind that is maple syrup. Underneath that is flavors of cinnamon spice and apricot. Honestly, it is crazy the way the palate is hit, from one flavor to the next.

Something you expect from Stagg, Jr., is some woodiness. It doesn't show up on the nose, the palate, or the finish... until later. Oak hides under the maple and apricot. The hard and soft palates tingle from the proof.

I drank this neat, just as I do with every whiskey. However, adding two drops of water turned this into a maple bomb on the nose. It thickened the mouthfeel significantly. Clove was added on the palate, yet the finish remained unchanged.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Batch 7 doesn't compare to my favorite Batch 9. I need to say this isn't unpleasant, but I don't know that I would chase it down. As such I'm rating it as a Bar.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond has a very limited distribution. At times you can get it outside of Kentucky, but mostly this is a Kentucky-only gem. It also is, surprisingly, not listed at all on Heaven Hill’s website, leaving you to wonder if they’re trying to keep one of the worst-kept secrets in Bourbon locked away.

Bottled in Bond is my favorite category of whiskey. Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond is one of the best representatives of that category. #RespectTheBottomShelf...

You can read this review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Elijah Craig A117 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Elijah Craig is one of those iconic Bourbon brands. As the story goes, Elijah Craig was a Baptist preacher who, in 1789, would up inventing Bourbon. That's the legend. Truth is more lore and far more complicated. But, he is considered the Father of Bourbon.

I've held my bottle of Batch A117 for almost a year. I cracked it open today. While I've not had a bad bottle of Barrel Proof, each is very different and some are absolutely better than others. There's no guarantee of a great pour.

Batch A117 was released in January 2017. Like all Elijah Craig offerings, the mash is 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. It was aged a dozen years before being dumped at 127.0°.

The color is a beautiful deep, dark brown. That's exciting because it really takes on the characteristics of the barrel. Swirling it in my glass leaves a very thin rim that drops a heavy, wavy curtain back into the pool.

Aromas of cherry and honey permeate my nostrils when holding the glass to my chin. Bringing it up to my lips adds oak and caramel. Lifting it directly under my nose, the cherry becomes more of a plum. Inhaling through my lips yeilds big vanilla.

The mouthfeel is thick and syrupy. It coats everything in my mouth and almost requires effort to get to the back of the throat.

Flavors of dark chocolate and berries are way up front. Behind that are orange peel, clove and charred oak. Patience brings vanilla way, way back. That's fun because vanilla isn't typically something I pick up in the back.

At this proof, there's less burn than you'd ever guess. Elijah Craig is known for a heavier finish. But, it is smooth, luxurious and creamy. Perhaps it is the lower than normal proof that causes this. I will say clove and oak stick around a long time.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: I typically find Elijah Craig Barrel Proof between $69 and $79. I find this completely enjoyable, an excellent representative of the brand, and would absolutely grab another Bottle if I saw it on the shelf.

On a final note, I drank this neat, just as I do every whiskey. Water added freshly sawn wood to the nose and tea to the palate which I didn't care for.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Stagg Jr. - Batch 9 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


In whiskey, names carry a lot of value and can generate excitement. George T. Stagg is a very well-known, respected label with a rich history and following. It is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). In 2013, Buffalo Trace went on to create another barrel-proof, unfiltered Bourbon, it would be one that would be a little easier to come across, and they chose to cash in on the GTS name, calling it Stagg, Jr.

Obviously, the tip of the hat doesn’t come without risk. If Stagg, Jr. didn’t go over well, it could put Buffalo Trace in poor light with fans. Thankfully, four years later, the label is still running strong and is in demand. The question becomes, just because it is popular, is this one you should be pursuing?

Batch 9 was released in 2017 at 131.9° and its MSRP is $49.99. Most of the batches I’ve come across the last couple of years have been closer to $54.99. It is created from a small batch of Bourbons using Buffalo Trace’s #1 mash. Each barrel in the batch ranges from eight to nine years old, but it carries no age statement.

The color is an almost murky brown. Swirling it in my glass gives an unusual, thick appearance. It leaves a thin rim and thick legs that race back to the pool. However, some of the rim remains glued to the glass.

Aromas of caramel and vanilla are up front. As I lift the glass closer to my nostrils, I pick up a slight mint, followed by oak and cherry. Inhaling through my mouth also brings an almost circus peanut sweetness.

The appearance of thickness is deceptive, because the mouth feel is shockingly light and airy. Keep in mind this is a 131.9° Bourbon. It also doesn’t provide burn in the mouth, but is very, very warm in the throat.

Flavors of black cherry are strong and way up front, followed by vanilla. Think cherry vanilla ice cream, and that’s what’s happening here. Behind that ice cream is a bit of the caramel. “Heavenly” is a term that comes to mind.

At this proof, the finish expectedly makes the soft and hard palates tingle, while building oak and more of the caramel in the throat. It is shorter than you’d guess, and it goes down a little too easy.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Stagg, Jr. seems to get better with each subsequent release, and Batch 9 is easily my favorite so far. To answer my earlier question, “Yes. You should absolutely track down a bottle. It is well worth the investment of time and money.”

On a final note, I drank this neat, just as I do with every whiskey. There are times I will add water, especially to barrel-proof whiskeys, as a curiosity factor. However, this incarnation of Stagg, Jr. is such an easy drinker, I’m going to skip that for now. Perhaps that will happen in a later review. This one snags my Bottle rating. Cheers!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Booker's Rye Review & Tasting Notes

This is probably the worst photo you’re going to see from me. That’s because it was taken back in 2016. I was tasting a bunch of top-shelf whiskeys that night, I was a bit tipsy (something I don’t enjoy doing), and the bottle wasn’t mine.

The reason I’m writing a review on Booker’s Rye is that another friend was kind enough to send me a sample. I’ve not tasted Bookers in a year and a half. I have vivid memories of this whiskey, and I’d like to see if my memory holds true and if my opinion has changed. As such, I’ll write this review with the admitted preconceived notion that I love it. I’ll keep the most open mind possible with my review, and perhaps I’ll be surprised by the outcome.

Booker’s Rye is a 13-year-old non-chilled filtered whiskey with a mash of over 70% rye, with the remainder being corn and barley, and is bottled at 136.2°.

Appearance: In the glass, the color is a gorgeous dark brown. A swirl leaves a thick rim and long, thick legs.

Nose: Cinnamon and nutmeg are up front, followed by plum, raisin and vanilla. In the back is oak. Inhaling through my mouth brings caramel.

Palate: As soon as it passes my lips, the spice and heat are on the tongue, which rolls all the way back to my throat. It is very thick, oily and coating. The first thing that hits the palate is dry oak. That’s shortly followed by stone fruit, vanilla, a tinge of citrus, and then ends with heavy caramel.

Finish: This has an amazingly long finish that just continues to build. Pepper sticks to the palate, and so does that thick caramel. It leaves me longing for more.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: You’re paying secondary market prices on this, and it retailed for about $300. Figure on doubling that. I’ve also seen this at bars for $100 per ounce. Is this the best thing to ever cross my lips? Not anymore. I remember it being better, but it is still an incredibly outstanding pour. Would I love a Bottle in my library? Absolutely, and I would cherish it. Cheers!


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Jim Beam Distiller's Cut Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

The newest whiskey that folks seem to be chasing down right now is Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut. Jim Beam? Are you serious?


This newest incarnation of Jim Beam is a 100°, non-chill filtered Bourbon that’s aged anywhere between five and six years. If you caught the words, “non-chill filtered,” and understand what that means, the excitement suddenly makes sense. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it means that the fatty acids that naturally occur during distillation haven’t been filtered out. Aside from affecting the taste, chill filtering brings clarity to the appearance lower-proofed whiskeys.

The mash is the standard Jim Beam bill: 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. If you’re looking at the proof and wondering if this just isn’t a relabeled Jim Beam Bonded, I’m going to set the record straight right now. I keep a bottle of the Bonded version around, and these are two very different Bourbons.

The appearance is a deep, clear amber that may be unexpected from some familiar with non-chill filtered whiskeys. There can be a cloudiness, especially when adding water or ice, but when you get above 92°, that cloudiness doesn’t happen. Swirling it around in my glass leaves an almost non-existent rim that is so thin it takes a bit to find it. But, once it appears, it produces very slow, fat droplets that eventually fall into the pool.

Aromas of nut are predominant, and at the first sniff or two, it is all that’s picked up. Underneath that comes pepper, a hint of apple, and finally, oak. Inhaling through my mouth brings a bubblegum quality.

The mouthfeel is thick but oily. It does coat the palate and is incredibly smooth.

Flavors of cinnamon and pepper are up front, with an almost immediate follow of caramel and vanilla. Underneath the caramel and vanilla is very light pear. Bringing up the rear is oak.

The finish is long and warming, with the pepper hanging around, especially mid-palate. It continues to build and stays around for several minutes after the swallow.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: If you’re not a fan of Jim Beam, this is the version that will change your mind. I’m loving this, and not only do I recommend picking up a Bottle, I might even suggest two, especially for the $23 price tag.

Allegedly, this is a limited edition Bourbon. I don’t know how many bottles are available, but they’re plentiful for now. If Jim Beam is listening, you need to make this a permanent offering of the product line.

If I have anything negative to say about the Distiller’s Cut, it would be the bottle’s screw-top closure. I don’t mind screw-tops at all, and in fact prefer them, but in this case, it is a very short cap and doesn’t feel like a secure closure. In reality, it works just fine, it is merely the feeling in the hand. As such, this is excessively minor and shouldn’t affect a purchase decision.



Saturday, December 23, 2017

Compass Box Hedonism Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


I'm trying something new to me tonight, Compass Box Hedonism. I'm pretty excited about this, it is a blended grain Lowland Scotch aged in new American oak.

Appearance: In the glass, this whisky is a very bright straw color. Swirling it in the Glencairn leaves a thin rim that instantly creates thick, wavy legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose: There is an obvious toasted coconut, followed by oak. Inhaling through my mouth brings out a lovely melon and vanilla.

Mouthfeel: From the first sip, Hedonism is luxurious and creamy, but strangely thin, which is an unexpected combination.

Palate: The toasted coconut from the nose is up front, then followed by oak and honey. Way in the back is caramel that melts into vanilla.

Finish: At 86°, there's no burn but there is a buzzing left on the tip of the tongue. The vanilla rests in the back of the throat, and with each additional sip, the creaminess builds another level. There is a hint of pepper as well.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: I'm loving Hedonism. For a Lowland whisky, there's a lot going on and it isn't as soft as others I've tried. At about $89.00, this is a nicely priced Scotch and I would be happy to have a Bottle in my library. Cheers!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Prizefight Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


I’m a fan of Irish whiskey and have slowly been adding those I enjoy to my library. When this bottle arrived, I was cautiously excited. The presentation is wonderful, with a beautiful expensive looking label on the front and a backstory that made me curious as to what the quality would be inside the bottle. After all, there’s only a handful of working distilleries in Ireland, and Pugilist Spirits is not one of them. This was obviously an upstart...

You can read the review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!