We're excited to launch a new segment on our website called “Tasting Note Tuesdays.” It's going to be exactly what it sounds like - tasting notes we publish on Tuesdays! This will be in addition to our standard full reviews and weekly content, but we've found our backlog of bourbons we'd like to review has become so extensive we don't think we'll ever catch up using our standard review process for all of them. To that end, the tasting notes will be much more brief, and won't represent the same in-depth evaluation we provide in our reviews. We hope you enjoy this segment, and we hope that getting our thoughts out more timely and for a greater number of bourbons will serve readers well.

 

 

 

Elijah Craig - Third Base Market & Spirits

 

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Heaven Hill

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Proof: 94

Age: NAS (Store confirms it to be 9 years old)

Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley

Official Website

 

Citing a surge in popularity and supply not meeting demand, Heaven Hill removed Elijah Craig 12 Year's age statement in 2016. It was rebranded to “Small Batch,” and while there is no official age statement the batches are rumored to contain bourbons in the 8-12 year old range. For this particular bottle, even though the age is not stated on the bottle, Third Base Market & Spirits selected a 9 year old single barrel. The barrel selected was #5222012 and was pulled from barrel location X-3.

 

The nose is very traditional and leads with oak and nut followed by a hint of banana chips and vanilla. The palate is light with hints of sweet vanilla and oak. The sip is rounded out with a short finish consisting of vanilla, oak, and a dash of pepper.

 

Ever since losing its 12 year age statement, Elijah Craig has been a staple of store selections. While not all store selections live up to the old age stated version, in general they are much better than the current NAS version being bottled by Heaven Hill. This store selection proves that point again with a simple yet enjoyable flavor profile. Whenever given the choice this just reconfirms that you should grab an Elijah Craig store selection versus the standard NAS bottling. Jordan - 6/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Third Base Market & Spirits. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

Wilderness Trail Settlers Select Rye Whiskey

 

Classification: Straight Rye

Company: Wilderness Trail Distillery

Distillery: Wilderness Trail Distillery

Proof: 97

Age: 3 Years

Mashbill: 56% Rye, 33% Corn, 11% Malted Barley

Official Website

 

Wilderness Trail Distillery co-founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist first started distilling operations in Danville, Kentucky in 2013. For their aged whiskeys, they start with Kentucky sourced grains and a proprietary yeast, which is a blend of strains collected over the years. A proprietary Infusion Mashing Process is used for their sweet mash, which is said to produce a softer and flavorful distillate. A chemical-free steam boiler is used, where only pure steam goes into their cooker and beer column. Distillation started with a 250 gallon Vendome Pot Hybrid Still, which produced the first bourbons they made. As the company has expanded, they introduced both a 40 foot tall, 18-inch beer column still and a 40 foot tall, 36-inch continuous beer still along with a 500 gallon doubler.

 

Whiskeys enter 53-gallon #4 char barrels at 110 proof for bourbon and 100 proof for rye, which is believed to be the lowest rye entry proof in Kentucky. Wilderness Trail states that their goal is to age whiskeys onsite for an average of 6-8 years, however as honey barrels are identified they’re being released in limited quantities to the market.

 

This particular rye whiskey is a 3 year old single barrel (#15D22) straight rye, bottled at a cask strength of 97 proof, meaning it dropped 3 proof points from its original barrel entry proof of 100 over its three years of aging. It’s peppy and bright on the nose, with aromas of butterscotch, rye, vanilla, and a hint of caramel. On the sip, rye spice is most prominent, along with balanced sweet notes of honey and caramel. There’s a youthful characteristic to it as well, but not overly so. The finish is warming with a touch of leather, oak, citrus, and finally more rye spice. It sticks around for a while with rye spice lingering the longest.

 

I tend to find rye matures more quickly than bourbon, as I’ve enjoyed younger rye releases but often find younger bourbon releases often still taste underaged. While this rye definitely tastes youthful, it’s developed a nice flavor profile in just 3 years. The low 100 barrel entry proof is interesting as well - while this was common in the early 1800’s when whiskey was sold by the barrel it has certainly trended upward, often found at or pushing the typical 125 barrel entry proof limit. I’m excited to see how Wilderness Trail’s aged whiskeys develop over the upcoming years. Nick - 05/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Wilderness Trail Distillery. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon 2017

 

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Limestone Branch

Distillery: 7 & 12 year bourbons undisclosed, 4 Year bourbon Limestone Branch

Proof: 101

Age: NAS (Blend of 4, 7, and 12 year old bourbons)

Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malt

MSRP: $100 (2017)

Official Website

 

Brothers Steve Beam and Paul Beam opened Limestone Branch Distillery in 2011. The 2017 version of Yellowstone Limited Edition is comprised of a mixture of sourced 7 and 12 year Kentucky straight bourbons mixed with Limestone Branch’s own 4 year Kentucky straight bourbon. This is the first time that Limestone Branch used their own distillate in a limited release. The blend of bourbons is finished in once-filled charred wine casks. The 2017 release consisted of 7,000-8,000 bottles.

 

A rich mixture of sweet toffee and baking chocolate dominate the nose with hints of malted barley and oak laying underneath. The palate comes across as thin and hot, which is unexpected following the rich nose. Rye spice, oak, leather, and sweet sugary vanilla try to compete with the heat. The heat fades away and the bourbon ends on sweeter notes of toffee, vanilla, caramel, and hints of dark berries.

 

This is a conundrum of a bourbon for me. The nose is rich and inviting, yet I was surprised by how much heat the palate delivered. It’s hard to tell how much influence the charred wine cask finishing had on the overall product, however there is no denying that the flavors throughout the sip are rich and inviting. I’m looking forward to seeing what each year’s limited release brings, especially as Limestone Branch transitions to using more of their own distillate. Jordan - 05/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Limestone Branch. We thank them the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

Sonoma County West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 1 SiB BP -  Third Base Market & Spirits

 

Classification: Bourbon

Company: Sonoma County Distilling Company

Distillery: Sonoma County Distilling Company

Proof: 112.4

Age: Aged no less than one year

Mashbill: Undisclosed amounts of American yellow corn, Canadian rye, and Wyoming barley smoked with California Cherrywood

Price: $50

Official Website

 

Sonoma County Distilling has been making whiskey since 2010. According to the company, they use direct fire copper pot stills for their distillation process that is both labor intensive and requires them to distill twice for their new make in order to reach a high enough alcohol concentration before barrelling. They also predominantly feature “Grain to Glass” on their label. Near every level of the production is handled in-house including the milling, mashing and fermentation of grains, direct-fire copper alembic pot distillation, American oak barrel aging, bottling, and labeling.

 

West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 1 features a bright and fruity nose that is quite peppy. It also has a noticeable degree of youth to it but it doesn’t distract from the fruit aromas. It actually helps add an additional layer of depth and overall I found this nose to be quite enjoyable. The palate is  creamy and a bit punchy thanks to its grainforwardness and proof. This is then backed up by a different intensity of cherry flavors that really shine. It finishes with mild smokiesness, salty caramel, and more grain.

 

Despite Sonoma County Distilling Co. being eight years old, this bourbon’s youth can still be tasted throughout the sip. It’s not so overpowering that it interferes with the other flavors, but it’s hard to escape. If you’re someone that is generally turned off by this, than you should know what you’re getting into here. I would add that the other flavors have an enjoyable intensity and you may find yourself focusing on them more. I usually don’t love grain-forward bourbons, but this single barrel cask strength bourbon features a lot of character in its sip and I find myself eager to go back for more. Eric - 05/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Third Base Market & Spirits. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

 

Maker’s Mark Private Select - Bill Samuels, Jr.

Classification: Bourbon finished with oak staves

Company: Beam Suntory

Distillery: Maker’s Mark

Proof: 110.9

Age: NAS

Mashbill: 70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley

MSRP: $80 (2018)

Official Website

 

In September of 2015 Maker’s Mark released a distillery only Maker’s 46 Cask Strength. Soon after they announced plans for a unique Private Select program - a barrel program where the consumer could choose 10 finishing staves from a set of five options - Baked American Pure 2, Seared French Cuvee, Maker’s 46, Roasted French Mocha, and Toasted French Spice. The Bill Samuels, Jr. bottle uses 10 Maker’s 46 staves, similar to the original Maker’s 46 Cask Strength release. The batch size now varies from about 5-7 barrels and is available at the Maker’s Mark gift shop as well as select Kentucky retailers (and maybe some others if you look hard enough). It’s an ongoing release and each batch will vary somewhat in flavor profile and proof.

 

Heavy oak on the nose is accompanied by more traditional vanilla and caramel notes. The bourbon hits the tongue gently considering the proof, with seasoned oak, a touch of spice, and a hint of orange rind on the backend. It has a nice, well rounded mouthfeel. The flavors intensify in the finish, where they really ramp up quickly and in full force. Sweet burnt brown sugar, toasted oak, tobacco, cigar box, and cinnamon spice take hold and then trail off. The finish turns slightly dry towards the end.

 

Despite trying it many times, I never could really get into the original Maker’s 46 Cask Strength distillery only release, which utilized the same 10 Maker’s 46 staves as this Bill Samuels, Jr. Private Select release. I found it overdone and a bit too overbearing - though I know it was a single barrel release and some people really enjoyed it. With this batch, I think Maker’s Mark got it right. They hit all the right Maker’s 46 notes, taking the wood intensity up a notch from Maker’s Mark Cask Strength...but not so far that it’s become a distinctly polarizing flavor profile. I also find it interesting that they note the use of 10 of the same staves is intended to allow the bourbon to exemplify the flavors that particular type of stave introduces. This can be overdone and I know a lot of Private Select bottles use more than one type of stave - sometimes all five. While this results in different flavors coming through, I can’t help but think sometimes these flavors compete for attention resulting in an odd flavor profile or just plain cancelling one another out. I’d like to try more examples where 10 of the same stave are used to see if they can capture the essence of that particular stave type...and of course not overdo it.  Nick - 05/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Maker’s Mark. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

 

Stoll & Wolfe Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey

 

Classification: Rye

Company: Heritage Spirits LLC

Distillery: Stoll & Wolfe Distillery

Proof: 90

Age: 18 Months

Mashbill: 65% Rye, 25% Corn, 10% Malt

Official Website

 

Stoll & Wolfe Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey is a mix of old and new. Created and distilled by legendary distiller Dick Stoll, this sweet mash rye is aged in 30 gallon barrels by the upstart Stoll & Wolfe Distillery. If the name Dick Stoll rings a bell, that’s because Mr. Stoll was the last master distiller at Pennsylvania’s Michter’s where he also distilled bourbon for the A.H. Hirsch Bourbon brand. He was trained by Charles Everett Beam who was the grandnephew of the legendary Jim Beam himself. Currently the Stoll & Wolfe Rye is mainly sold in the distillery tasting room in Lititz, PA. The bottle that was tasted is from Batch 1117.

 

Sweet notes of honey, vanilla, and orange rind lay on top of a large dose of rye grain. Beneath these lie distinct hits of corn and oak which come with the territory of this young whiskey. Rye and honey carry through to the palate and dominate the experience along with a dash of cinnamon. The sweet spiciness is mellowed out by the new oak layer that mingles with it. The finish brings about a lingering mixture of rye spice, honey, and hints of sweet orange and dry leather.

 

The old adage that there’s no substitute for experience clearly holds true as Stoll & Wolfe Pennsylvania Rye shows a ton of potential for such a young whiskey. Dick Stoll’s knowledge and experience has allowed this young rye to start to show the promise of what this brand could become. While the youth is present throughout the sip, the flavors are inviting and will hopefully continue to mature and build even more depth with additional time in the wood. I’m looking forward to revisiting this brand in the future and seeing if Dick Stoll’s magic can be recreated one more time.  Jordan - 04/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of the Stoll & Wolfe Distillery. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

John Drew Rye & Brixton Mash Destroyer

 

John Drew is the man behind the Drew Estate’s Pappy Van Winkle Cigars, ACID Cigars, and Kentucky Fire Cured Cigars. He has since created John Drew Brands, a venture that focuses on spirits, craft beverages, and specialty food. Some of the company’s first products were sent to us. Our tasting notes follow.

 

John Drew Rye

 

Classification: Rye

Company: John Drew Brands

Distillery: Undisclosed distillery in Alberta, Canada

Proof: 90

Age: 4 years then “held” for an additional 3 years

Mashbill: 95% Rye

Price: $45

Official Website

 

Sweet and expressive aromas of cloves, grain, honey, and toasted oak open this rye. The palate is thin and on the sweet side with cinnamon, molasses, licorice, baking spices and finishes with mild oak and ethanol notes. It’s a fairly straightforward rye that lacks a lot of the character other ryes on the market offer. It even lacks some of the uniqueness of John Drew’s other products in this tasting group. I was expecting more influence from the toasted barrels, but they seem to have had little impact on the overall whiskey. If this is, in fact a 7 year old rye, it would be news to my taste buds because it certainly doesn’t drink that way. It comes across closer to a 2-3 year old rye due to its simple palate, mild oak influence, and ethanol present.

 

Brixton Mash Destroyer

 

Classification: Bourbon and Rum Blend

Company: John Drew Brands

Distillery: Undisclosed

Proof: 90

Age: NAS

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Price: $35

Official Website

 

The label states “Bourbon & Rum Mash” which made me hope that some interesting process of blending bourbon and rum mashbills together helped create this, but that simply is not the case. This is a bourbon and rum mash-up, which takes a Kentucky bourbon and a Florida rum and blends them to create this. The results are what you would expect: Interesting and at times confusing.

 

The nose is all bourbon with oak and vanilla aromas. There is a slight tinge of sweetness that wavers in, but it’s brief. The taste is definitely a mashup of flavors. Everything from vanilla, oak and orange, to molasses, brown sugar, and honey. It’s not going to be for everyone, but as strange as this concept comes across, it definitely has its good moments. The bourbon helps ground the rum’s heavy sugar notes and the rum helps sweeten the bourbon’s oakier notes. It’s not a perfect pairing but it does enough to justify its existence. I can imagine this being a nice pour on a hot day and as the bottle states, “crazy good in a mixed drink as well.” I didn’t mix a drink with it to find out, but after tasting it neat, I just might be convinced to give it a try.

 

BONUS: Dove Tail Rum

 

Classification: Rum

Company: John Drew Brands

Distillery: Undisclosed distillery in Florida

Proof: 80

Age: Aged 4 years in spent bourbon barrels

Mashbill: Distilled using Florida sugarcane black strap molasses

Price: $35

Official Website

 

This is a bourbon website, not a rum website so this will be short. Dove Tail Rum tastes like sweet, sweet molasses.  Eric - 04/2018

 

The samples used for this review were provided at no cost courtesy of John Drew Brands. We thank them for the samples and for allowing us to review them with no strings attached.

 

 

1792 Full Proof - Linwood Wine & Liquor Company Selection

 

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Sazerac Company Inc.

Distillery: Barton 1792 Distillery

Proof: 125

Age: NAS

Mashbill: Undisclosed (Rumored to be around 75% corn, 15% rye, 10% malted barley)

Official Website

 

Described by Barton as a “high rye” bourbon, 1792 Full Proof skips the traditional chill filtering that Barton normally uses, and instead only passes through a plate and frame filter. This bourbon’s name is derived from the fact that it’s been bottled at its original 125 barrel entry proof, making it the highest proof 1792 offering to date. While it’s well-known that I’m not a fan of the standard 1792 Full Proof, I was excited to try my first store pick of this line.

 

Surprisingly lacking any ethanol, the nose is really inviting and full of caramel, oak, burnt sugar, baking chocolate, and spiced apples. The palate starts sweet with notes of creme brulee, brown sugar, soft caramel, and vanilla, before building into a crescendo of heat. Upon swallowing, the heat from the palate explodes and fills your mouth. The heat lingers for a long time before subsiding into a funky mixture of chewy wet oak, dry leather, and bar soap.

 

In the end, I think my taste buds will never fully fall in love with 1792 Full Proof. I still find this to be slightly too hot of a palate and with too funky of a finish to fully enjoy. That said, this bottling is a really nice example of how store picks can surprise you. A lot of the negatives that I found in the standard bottle are smoothed out, allowing for a more enjoyable experience for me. I can see why so many people track down store selections of 1792 Full Proof versus the standard bottle, as it simply delivers a better drinking experience.   Jordan 4/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Linwood Wine & Liquor Company. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

 

Maker’s Mark Private Select - Linwood Wine & Liquor Company

 

Classification: Bourbon finished with oak staves

Company: Beam Suntory

Distillery: Maker’s Mark

Proof: 111.6

Age: NAS

Mashbill: 70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley

Price: $80 (2018)

Official Website

 

If you’re not familiar with the Maker’s Mark Private Select concept, bottles are created using unique stave combinations to produce a truly one-of-a-kind product. The company opened up this process to stores a few years ago allowing them to pick their own stave combinations. With over 1,000 different possible combinations, Maker’s Mark offers retailers a truly unique barrel select program by allowing them to have a direct influence on how a barrel ultimately tastes.

 

This the second Maker’s Mark Private Select we’ve provided tasting notes for and there are some common threads we’ve found between them. First, they tend to lean on the heavy full-flavored side of the spectrum, more so than a traditional bottle of bourbon. Second, for being on the “lower” side of the barrel proof scale (generally around 111-133 proof) they still pack a lot of heat.

 

Linwood Wine & Liquor Company’s picked 7 baked American Pure 2 staves, 2 seared French Cuvee staves, and 1 toasted French spice stave for their barrel. It has mild aromas of vanilla, toasted oak, and coffee that are a bit overshadowed by ethanol. Allowing some airtime helps tame, but not fully remove the ethanol. I’m surprised how relatively mild the nose has been on the Private Selects I’ve sampled compared to Maker’s standard offerings. The palate packs a strong fiery front of tobacco, oak, and black pepper. This bold display of flavors is impactful as it is long lasting. The tobacco and oak bleeds into the finish which leaves a dry aftertaste.

 

Maker’s Mark Private Selects do come with a higher price tag for their additional steps to create and their resulting uniqueness. Their bold flavor tends to be love it or leave it for a lot of people. If you’ve been nervous pulling the trigger on one of these, many stores will have their store selections open for patrons to sample. That way you’ll know if a particular Maker’s Mark Private Select’s unique flavor is right for you.

Eric - 03/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Linwood Wine & Liquor Company. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

Barrell Bourbon Batch 015

 

Classification: Bourbon

Company: Barrell Craft Spirits

Distillery: Sourced (From a total of three undisclosed distilleries in Tennessee and Kentucky)

Proof: 107.6

Age: Blend of 9.5, 10, and 11 year old bourbons

Mashbill: Corn, Rye, Malted Barley (undisclosed amounts)

MSRP: $90 (2018)

Official Website

 

While some describe sourcing bourbon as simply buying someone else’s barrels and putting it into a bottle with your label on it, what the folks at Barrell Craft Spirits do is anything but. This particular blend comes from three distilleries located in Tennessee and Kentucky, with an estimated 70 - 75% coming from Tennessee. After a strong showing with Batch 014, just how does this latest batch fare?

 

Scents of baking spices and seasoned oak give way to sweet honey aromas. On the palate a bed of gingerbread settles in beneath sweeter fruity notes of peaches and apples. A touch of cornbread and a trace of seasoned oak round things out. Long and warming, the finish consists of buttered cornbread, honey, and just the right amount of rye spice. A bit of sweet fruit also shows through in the finish as it trails off.

 

At 107.6 proof, Batch 015 is Barrell’s lowest proof bourbon release to date, though others have been close. Still cask strength however, the relatively low proof for a Barrell Bourbon doesn’t do this bourbon a disservice, and if anything allows the flavors to shine without being overpowered by an overly assertive proof. What’s especially interesting is the fruit notes I picked up with this batch are more prominent than any other Barrell Bourbon batch I can remember. To put it plainly, I’m a fan of Batch 015. It’s immediately likeable and has a flavor profile I could keep coming back to over and over.  Nick - 03/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Barrell Craft Spirits. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

Rabbit Hole Bourbon (Late 2016)

 

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Rabbit Hole Distilling

Distillery: Contract Distilled by an Unknown Source

Proof: 95

Age: NAS

Mashbill: 70% Corn, 10% Malted Wheat, 10% Honey Malted Barley, 10% Malted Barley

Price: $50

Official Website

 

Rabbit Hole Distilling was founded in 2012 by clinical psychologist turned distillery owner Kave Zamamian. With the help of Cameron Talley formerly of Brown-Forman and Wild Turkey, Rabbit Hole Distilling started by both contract distilling their standard bourbon and rye, and sourcing bourbon for their PX Sherry Cask finished product. Unlike sourcing bourbon, contract distilling is the act of hiring another distillery to distill bourbon to your agreed upon specifications. In this case, it is rumored that New Rift Distilling was their contract source, while Rabbit Hole Distilling completes the construction of their new distillery in downtown Louisville.

 

Sweet notes on the nose consist of vanilla, light caramel and honey, corn oil, and dashes of oak. The bourbon provides a good mouthfeel with an oily coating of sweet corn, light cotton candy, hints of old fashioned Bazooka Joe bubble gum, and candy red maraschino cherries. The palate shows this bourbon definitely younger but not distractingly so. That said, the finish shows its age as it lacks depth. A flash of heat, corn, and oak are present with the sweeter notes from the nose and finish nowhere to be found.

 

For such a young bourbon, this shows a lot of potential. The nose and palate really highlight its unique mashbill. The finish makes it very clear that it could use more time in the barrel, which makes me all the more intrigued to try this after it has had more time to age. With an up-and-coming distillery and more experience underneath their belt, I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Rabbit Hole Distilling.

Jordan - 03/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Rabbit Hole Distilling. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

Jefferson’s Ocean: Aged at Sea - Voyage 12

 

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Jefferson’s

Distillery: Sourced

Proof: 90

Age: NAS

Mashbill: Undisclosed

MSRP: $90 (2018)

Official Website

 

It’s been some time since we last checked in with the Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea series. Nick reviewed Voyages 2-4, giving the highest mark to Voyage 2. With a Wheated Ocean and Jefferson’s Journey (bourbon traveled by boat from Louisville to NYC) expected in 2018, it seems fitting to take another look at a more recent Ocean release. We were curious to see how a recent release tastes, how it compares to previous Ocean releases, and how it compares to the standard Jefferson’s Reserve.

 

Voyage 12 opens with rich butterscotch which is quite assertive at times on the nose. Floral and bubblegum scents also pull through combining into a gentle aroma that is quite pleasing. A unique flavor pops on the palate. It’s not in-your-face different, but more subtle. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s straight up salty, but it does have a brine-like quality and even a hibiscus-like flavor to it. In a way it also tastes like the malted barley got enhanced to a degree by the voyage. Not so much that it tastes like a single malt whiskey, but more so than a typical bourbon. This trails off in the finish as oak takes over and leaves a slight dry aftertaste.

 

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea has always had to fight against the gimmicky moniker, as aging bourbon on a boat will do that. There’s no way to tell for sure if the standard Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon is the same bourbon that also goes into Jefferson’s Ocean, or if it’s some variation of it. Comparing them directly to each other, there is certainly a difference in taste. Jefferson’s Reserve has a very traditional flavor profile that is a bit more brash both in its palate and finish. Voyage 12 is mellower and this brings out a bit more nuances in the flavors. Its unique tasting palate simply offers something a little different. This of course also comes at a premium price point.

 

Tasting Voyage 12 against Voyages 2 and 4, all three have elements that made them taste different than you would normally expect bourbon to taste. Voyage 2 has its thick mouthfeel and burnt brown sugar, where Voyage 4 has more earthiness. We’ll never know if these bourbons had these elements before being aged on a boat, but tasting them now, as subtle as they are, it’s evident they bring something else to the glass that the standard Jefferson Reserve doesn’t. Call it a gimmick if you want, but it’s clear Jefferson’s Ocean Voyages are unique tasting and are a better sip versus the standard Jefferson’s Reserve. In the end it will be up to the individual drinker if these oh-so subtle changes are enough to warrant its premium price. However after this many voyages, cask strength versions, store selections, and new variations on the way, one can conclude that they just might be.  Eric - 03/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Pete. We thank him for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

John J. Bowman Single Barrel - DGC & The Book Club Private Select “Dice Bottle”

 

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Sazerac Company Inc.

Distillery: Buffalo Trace / A. Smith Bowman Distillery

Proof: 100

Age: 11 Years

Mashbill: Buffalo Trace Mashbill #1

MSRP: Not available for retail sale

Official Website

 

This week’s Tasting Note Tuesdays features a private selection barrel of John J. Bowman that was chosen by two groups - DCG of Greenville, SC and The Book Club of Charlottesville, VA. What’s most interesting about this barrel was the selection process - after the barrel was selected, and after much deliberation, the groups decided to take a risk and age the barrel an additional six months in Bowman’s non-temperature controlled warehouse. “Rolling the dice” on whether the additional time in a hot warehouse would enhance or potentially ruin the barrel they selected, we had the chance to sample the result.

 

The bourbon is made from Buffalo Trace’s mashbill #1, twice distilled at Buffalo Trace and then re-distilled in A. Smith Bowman’s famous copper pot still. It entered the barrel at 125 proof and after 11 years emerged at a whopping 141.9 proof, though it was proofed down to the standard 100 for final bottling.

 

The end result is certainly a quintessential John J. Bowman Single Barrel flavor profile. Fresh leather, cigar box, baking chocolate, and a hint of green apple aromas introduce the bourbon to the senses. The sip reveals rich, earthy flavors of fresh leather, seasoned oak, and barrel char. Its notable astringency complements its earthy undertones. A warming heat accents the finish, with cinnamon spice and bouts of chewing tobacco giving way to hard cherry candy sweetness. It’s long and delicious. Leaving it in the glass for a prolonged period accents some of the more refined notes and subdues the astringency.

 

On the surface, leaving a barrel to age another six months doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But if you’ve ever been part of selecting a barrel you know the risk of ruining it can be significant. At $10,000+/- for a barrel of bourbon, that’s a risk not many will likely take. Ryan Gossage, a member of the group who selected the barrel, reached out to us in May 2017 to ask our opinion of whether they should take that risk, and the best advice we could provide him was to say it’s basically a “crapshoot.” They already knew they had a good barrel and ran the risk of ruining it...and much can be said for stopping the aging process at the right time...tanked Sazerac 18 Year anyone? With that in mind it’s an interesting experiment and while I can’t say how much the additional six months of barrel aging changed the flavor profile from their initial selection, the result is as interesting as it is unique.  Nick - 02/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of DGC & The Book Club. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

Barrell Bourbon Batch 014

 

Classification: Bourbon

Company: Barrell Craft Spirits

Distillery: Sourced (From undisclosed distilleries in Tennessee and Kentucky)

Proof: 109.4

Age: Blend of 9 and 14 year old bourbons

Mashbill: Corn, Rye, Malted Barley (undisclosed amounts)

MSRP: $90

Official Website

 

Barrell Craft Spirits run by Joe Beatrice, is a producer/blender out of Kentucky that releases multiple unique batches of barrel proof spirits throughout the year. We’ve reviewed a number of his releases and  some of our favorite whiskeys over the past few years have come from this company including Batch 005, Batch 006, Batch 011, and Batch 013. Eric noted in his Batch 013 review that Beatrice is on an impressive streak with his Barrell Bourbon batches, but with each new batch, we can’t help think that this is it, this is the one batch that finally disappoints. Pouring this batch I wondered, “could this be the one?”

 

The nose consists of a strong dose of milled corn mixed with oak, peaches, and baked pie crust. The palate has a satisfyingly oily mouthfeel that nicely coats your mouth. The sip itself is sweeter and contains mixtures of light vanilla, caramel, rye grain, green apple, and a heat that wasn’t noticeable in the nose. It ends on spicy and dry notes, with leather, white pepper, and rye grain leading the way, all of which are mixed with a well executed dash of heat.

 

It turns out Beatrice delivered the goods, because once again Batch 014 delivers a solid sip. The older bourbons used in this batch, combined with the lower than normal proof for a Barrell product results in an all around enjoyable sipper. If you haven’t experienced a Barrell Bourbon yet, Batch 014 is as good as any to start with and I doubt many will be disappointed by it.  Jordan - 02/2018

 

The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Barrell Craft Spirits. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

 

 

 

Weller 12 Year (2017 Release)

 

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Sazerac Company, Inc.

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Proof: 90

Age: 12 Years

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Price: $30

Official Website

 

Weller 12 has had one of the more interesting journeys for a bourbon this decade. Prior to 2014, it was routinely found in plentiful numbers and on the bottom shelf at most liquor stores. It’s a great case study for perception of value. Once found under $20, many people simply overlooked it because of the price, but for those in the know, they always had it on hand. There were never reports of mass hoarding or exorbitant secondary pricing. It was a house bourbon that no one paid that much attention to. That is until you couldn’t find it anymore.

 

I remember hearing that it was starting to disappear from store shelves in mid 2013 and didn’t think too much of it. I had the expectation that it would come back at some point, probably sooner than later. As 2013 came to a close, I started to get a little worried. I’d spend the better part of a day, typing in “liquor store” into Google Maps and driving to pretty much every single store in my city trying to locate one. At that point it was already too late.

 

It wasn’t until 2015 that I eventually came across another bottle on the shelf. That was the last time that happened, but I also don’t bother looking for it anymore either. In late 2017 I was offered one from a store owner at its retail price: $30. I of course bought it, but knowing in the back of my head reviews for newer batches say it isn’t what it use to be. Well let’s find out.

 

Very traditional aromas up front. Heavy oak gives hints that it might be a dry bourbon despite good amounts of vanilla and caramel present. It’s surprisingly not sweet smelling at all. It has average depth at best, but still the nose has decent overall composition. The palate is rather nice thanks to its velvety consistency. Its dry oaky, sweet caramel, and buttercream notes have their moments, but almost cancel each other out in a way. This transitions into an oaky and tannic-like finish that tastes slightly off. The flavor is a bit weak on the finish, but it has a mild spicy aftertaste that is rather enjoyable.

 

All in, Weller 12 Year (2017) is a bit unrefined, but still has its moments. Its palate is its standout trait, I’d just like to see more of a sweet element injected into it. That is where my 2013 bottle shines. It has the punchy sweetness that adds another dimension to it. Being an open bottle for five years certainly didn’t do the bottle any disservice, but I doubt the same will be able to be said about this 2017 bottle in five years time.

 

Finally, tasting the 2013, 2015, 2017 in succession, the 2017 bottle was the weakest of the bunch. Again, its lack of overall sweetness and disappointing finish holds it back. Where the 2013 and 2015 bottles could easily warrant a $50+ price tag if released today, the 2017 bottle isn’t quite there. I’m satisfied with it knowing that I spent $30 on it, but I wouldn’t have felt the same way, if I’d spent much over that. It’s a good bourbon, nothing more.   Eric - 02/2018

 

 

 

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