TNT Blog roll
Horse Soldier Bourbon Whiskey

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: American Freedom Distillery

Distillery: American Freedom Distillery

Release Date: Ongoing

Proof: 87

Age: Aged a minimum of 2 years

Mashbill: 65% Corn, 30% Rye, 5% Malted Barley

MSRP: $45 (2019)

Official Website

In the days after the events of September 11, 2001, a group of special operations officers answered their nation’s call to defend it. These officers soon found themselves riding horseback in a Green Beret insertion in Northern Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. These men are honored at the America’s Response Monument at Ground Zero and have been given the nickname Horse Soldiers.

These same men banded together to create American Freedom Distillery. Their 16,000 square-foot distillery is located in Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, where they distill their Rekker Rum. Their whiskey is made in Ohio in conjunction with Middle West Spirits. A portion of the proceeds of every bottle sold by American Freedom goes towards maintaining the America’s Response Monument.

A soft and sweet aroma makes up the heft of the nose, with touches of caramel, spice, and grain in tow. It’s followed by a gentle tasting palate that’s sweet and approachable, thanks to honey, vanilla, and lemon zest. It finishes with an impactful pop of oak and spice.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Whiskey an easy sipper that non-bourbon drinkers will find very approachable. What the sip may lack in depth, it makes up in its easy drinkability.

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

Written By: Eric
Luca Mariano Small Batch Rye

Classification: Straight Rye

Company: Luca Mariano

Distillery: Undisclosed

Proof: 83

Age: 4 Years

Mashbill: Undisclosed (listed as a high rye)

MSRP: $45 (2019)

Official Website

Francesco Viola was a home distilling hobbyist and in 2010 he decided to bring some of his grandfather's old whiskey recipes to life. Upon learning that it was illegal to home distill, Francesco dove in head first, obtaining a license to distill and creating the Luca Mariano brand along the way. The company derives its name from Francesco’s son, Luca Mariano, who is named after Francesco’s grandfather. The brand is currently working with a Kentucky distillery to distill their products to spec. In 2017, the company found a 300 acre farm in Danville, Kentucky with the goal of it eventually housing a future distillery, rackhouses, and a visitor center.

The batch being tasted comes from Batch Number 2019-01. The batch’s nose is light with hints of corn, vanilla, oak, and light marshmallow. Taking a sip presents light flavors of oak, white pepper, corn, and a dash of vanilla. The rye pulls through on the finish and presents a slightly spicier than expected ending, especially considering its 83 proof. Along with the rye spice, sweet vanilla and light oak are also present for this short to medium finish.

As would be expected for an 83 proof rye, the sip is on the lighter side. The flavors are fine, but you can’t help but feel a few more years in the barrel and about 10+ more proof points would really allow this rye to shine. It will be interesting to see how the Luca Mariano Small Batch Rye develops over time, especially once distillation moves in-house. In the meantime, Luca Mariano Small Batch Rye presents the perfect cocktail rye when you need a lighter base for a whiskey-based cocktail.

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

Written By: Jordan
Taconic Distillery Finished Whiskeys

Taconic Distillery Dutchess Private Reserve Bourbon Cognac Cask

Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Cognac Casks

Company: Taconic Distillery

Distillery: Taconic Distillery

Release Date: 2019

Proof: 90

Age: NAS

Mashbill: 70% Corn, 25% Rye, 5% Malted Barley

MSRP: $54 (2019)

Official Website


Taconic Distillery Founder’s Rye Madeira Cask

Classification: Straight Rye Finished in Madeira Casks

Company: Taconic Distillery

Distillery: Taconic Distillery

Release Date: 2019

Proof: 90

Age: NAS

Mashbill: Undisclosed

MSRP: $54 (2019)

Official Website

Taconic Distillery located in New York’s lush Hudson Valley, was established in 2013. Its founders hoped to bring the spirit of the region’s hunting, fishing, and outdoor lifestyle to their entire whiskey making process. The company calls their products “farm-to-bottle” whiskeys, utilizing locally sourced Hudson Valley grains and water from the distillery’s on-premise natural spring.

In the fall of 2016, Taconic finished construction and opened its new 4,200 square foot distillery, which now allows them to produce, bottle and package their whiskey in one place. Their tasting room allows visitors to sample their whiskey, but more interestingly, also allows visitors to taste many other distilleries' whiskeys in hopes of providing a greater understanding of the wealth of different whiskeys on the market. Their straight bourbon and rye whiskeys also are available in cask strength varieties, and during the fall they also release a double barreled maple bourbon, which is their bourbon finished for a few months in emptied maple syrup barrels from Catskill Mountain Sugarhouse. Some of the company’s newest products are their barrel finished whiskeys, two of which are Dutchess Private Reserve Bourbon finished in cognac casks, and their Founder’s Rye finished in Madeira casks.

Dutchess Private Reserve Bourbon finished in ex-Remy Martin cognac casks opens with a soft whiff of toasted coconut, vanilla extract, and dark berries that slowly gives way to cognac soaked raisin scent. An extra swirl of the glass nicely opens the aroma further and increases its intensity. The sip piggybacks on the nose with juicy raisins and dark berries at the forefront, followed by oak, burnet caramel, and nuts. The finish is oak and grain forward and most noticeably, a bit bitter, which most likely has to do with the cognac barrel finishing. Overall the barrel finish is mild and keeps its intensity in check.

Founder’s Rye finished in Madeira casks starts with a delightful aroma of whipped strawberry frosting, rye spice, orange, and toffee. The palate transitions into a more nutty and oak base with light cherry and peach bringing some brightness to the flavor profile. The finish is oaky and bitter with a walnut and orange peel aftertaste.  

Both whiskeys are easy sippers and I can’t help but feel that’s the direction they were going for. “Gentle” is the conclusion I came to regarding both finishes. The barrel finish doesn’t try and get in the way of the base whiskey and is instead there to compliment it. There are plenty of whiskey drinkers that will appreciate this, while others will wish for more barrel finish and proof intensity. It’s hard to please both in this regard and I can’t help but think Taconic knew exactly who they were making this for.

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

Written By: Eric
War Penny Krogh's Stout Beer Barrel Finish Bourbon

Classification: Bourbon Finished in a Krogh’s Stout Beer Barrel

Company: Milk Street Distillery

Distillery: Milk Street Distillery

Proof: 93

Age: NAS

Mashbill: Undisclosed

MSRP: $68 (2019)

Official Website

Milk Street Distillery was launched by brothers Mike and Gordon Geerhart in 2016. Located Branchville, New Jersey, it is the first distillery in Sussex County in over 70 years. War Penny Bourbon consists of a mashbill of undisclosed percentages of corn and rye, with a portion of that grain steeped in cherry wood smoke over the course of 36 hours. Aged until the brothers deemed it ready, the bourbon is then finished in beer barrels of varying styles from local breweries for an undisclosed amount of time. This variation of beer barrels allows War Penny to have a continuously changing flavor profile. The top of every bottle of War Penny Bourbon is adorned with a real 1943 steel penny.

The nose opens with a strong dash of smoke, sweet malts, youthful grain, and a sweet marshmallow notes. The sip is thin yet flavorful delivering flavors of smoked corn, chocolate malt, pepper, and a dash of rye spice. The bourbon finishes on notes of chocolate, pepper, rye, and toasted marshmallow. The inclusion of steeping in cherry wood smoke and finishing in beer barrels is readily apparent throughout the entire sip.

This bottle of War Penny Bourbon deep down comes across as a young whiskey. However due to the fact that some of its grains have been cherry smoked, and that it was finished in a stout barrel, that youth is masked well and features flavors typically not found in young whiskey. I’d best describe this as a beer drinker’s bourbon, and one that would be a nice introduction to those rooted in the beer world who would like to dabble in the world of bourbon.

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

Written By: Jordan
King of Kentucky 2019 Release

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Brown-Forman

Distillery: The Brown-Forman Distillery

Release Date: July 2019

Proof: 131 (Proofs range from 125-135)

Age: 15 Years

Mashbill: 79% Corn, 11% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

MSRP: $250 (2019)

Official Website

Available only in Kentucky, King of Kentucky is a rebirth of the classic brand by Brown-Forman. The original King of Kentucky label was named in honor of horse racing, also known as the “sport of kings.” According to the company’s press release, “...this release is based on a brand of the same name that was established in 1881. Brown-Forman acquired the brand from Selected KY Distillers, Inc. in 1936, and discontinued it in 1968.”

The release is derived from 27 single barrels with an average yield of 30%, that range in proof between 125-135. Brown-Forman estimates this year’s release to be 2,100 bottles, which is about 1,140 more bottles than last year’s inaugural release. The single barrel sample provided to us by Brown-Forman is from Barrel No. 8.

Honey, cherry, cinnamon, peaches, leather and seasoned oak form a sophisticated aroma that beautifully showcases the bourbon’s age while still maintaining its punchiness. The palate is rich and while the bourbon is certainly hot, distinct notes of dark chocolate, brandy cherries, sweet oak, and rye spice come though the heat gracefully. It finishes dry with a touch of sweetness, leaning heavily on oak.

The 2019 release of King of Kentucky picks up right where last year’s edition left off. It is once again an excellently constructed bourbon that balances its sweet and oak flavors nicely. There are plenty of full flavored barrel proof bourbons, but few match the quality of flavors and pure richness of this bourbon.

Jordan awarded the 2018 edition one of his favorite bourbons last year. The year is only half over but it looks like there will be a good chance the 2019 edition will make our list again. Yes, it’s that good.

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

Written By: Eric
Blood Oath Pact No. 5

Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Caribbean Rum Casks

Company: Luxco

Distillery: Undisclosed

Proof: 98.6

Age: NAS (Blend of 8, 11, and 13 year old bourbons)

Mashbill: Undisclosed

MSRP: $100 (2019)

Official Website

Launched in 2015, a new unique Pact is released each year. For this 5th release, an 8 year old rye bourbon was finished in Caribbean rum barrels for an additional 6 months. It was than blended with an 11 year old wheated bourbon and a 13 year old rye bourbon. The exact blend percentages are not disclosed. All bourbons used in the blend originated from Kentucky.

The rum finishing is noticeable yet not overbearing, as a hint of molasses weaves its way throughout. The nose is sweet and enjoyable with vanilla, brown sugar, brown butter, light grain, and a touch of ethanol present. The juicy sip carries forward the molasses and also brings forward rye spice, pepper, vanilla, and oak. It finishes with a warming spicy rye heat, and vanilla, aged oak, brown sugar, and leather are sprinkled throughout.

Blood Oath Pact No. 5 is a mix of sweet and spicy that results in an overall easy drinking and enjoyable sip. While the barrel finished 8 year old bourbon has the biggest impact on the bourbon’s flavor profile, the 11 and 13 year old bourbons help bring balance. As a result, this influence is an enhancer versus a dominating factor throughout the sip. For those who enjoy a slightly sweeter bourbon, Blood Oath Pact No. 5 will help scratch that itch. It’s billed as a limited run product, but thankfully many will have any opportunity to try this as 15,000 cases were produced, for a total of 45,000 bottles.  

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

Written By: Jordan
Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2019-01 “Teresa’s Batch”

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Beam Suntory

Distillery: Jim Beam

Proof: 125.9

Age: 6 Years, 3 Months, 1 Day

Mashbill: 77% Corn, 13% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

MSRP: $80 (2019)

Official Website

Booker’s Bourbon’s first batch of 2019 is named in honor of Teresa Wittemer, a 30+ year veteran at Jim Beam, and selected by Booker Noe to work on his namesake brand. During her career she has worked in the quality control department and became well acquainted with Noe’s desired flavor profile. She now helps his son, Fred Noe, select batches of Booker’s Bourbon and maintain the distinct flavor profile that the brand has become known for.

When the company moved to named batches, they began to experiment playing within Booker’s desired flavor profile. While never straying too far from the line, Fred has found interesting ways to offer Booker’s Bourbon drinkers a reason to pick up different batches. They’ve never quite tasted night and day different from one another, but fans of the brand will probably notice the biggest differences over casual Booker’s drinkers.

“Teresa’s Batch” opens with a burst of sweet caramel, vanilla, and brown sugar. Oak is layered upon these flavors and presents an extremely sweet and sugary aroma. The palate features much more spice against its sweet base of caramel and vanilla. Like the nose, brown sugar is also quite prevalent in the palate, but balanced against notes of chestnut, seasoned oak, and baking spice. It finishes hot like you’d expect from any Booker’s Bourbon batch and brings with it additional notes of roasted peanuts, nutmeg, and leather.

Booker’s Bourbon maintains its track record of quietly releasing batches that are satisfying and well crafted. They don’t quite get the attention or reach the heights of say a good Barrell Bourbon batch sometimes does, but more often than not, any named batch of Booker’s Bourbon is a solid drinker.

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

Written By: Eric
Belle Meade Bourbon Honey Cask Finish 2019

Classification: Bourbon finished in Belle Meade Single Barrel Bourbon barrels that were also used to age Trubee Barrel Aged Honey

Company: Nelson's Green Brier Distillery

Distillery: MGP

Proof: 111.8

Age: NAS on bottle; 11 years stated on website

Mashbill: Undisclosed

MSRP: $125 (2019)

Official Website

Belle Meade Bourbon Honey Cask Finish is part of Belle Meade’s Craftsman Cask Collection. This series features limited edition spirits that can only be found at the distillery gift shop. To create the Honey Cask Finish, Belle Meade gave used 11 year Belle Meade single barrel bourbon barrels to Trubee Honey. Trubee Honey filled these bourbon barrels with local wildflower honey, and after dumping the honey, returned the barrels to Belle Meade. Belle Meade then refilled the barrels with 11 year old high rye bourbon (30% rye) again and let them rest for a few months before finally bottling the bourbon.

Unlike an artificially sweetened bourbon that some distilleries release, Belle Meade Honey Cask Finish nails the balance between the honey influence and the underpinning bourbon that originally went into the barrel. Sweet on the nose, vanilla, wild flowers, honey, and a dash of cinnamon mix with aged oak. The honey influence is clearly evident, as the palate is full of rich sweet sugars. Honey, vanilla, and a massive dose of cinnamon pull through. The finish is long and drawing, full of baking spices, honey, and a sweet rich cinnamon spice that leaves a warming heat.

I’m a big fan of distilleries experimenting. The end result may not always be great, but no matter what, it’s fun to see how they turn out. In this case, Belle Meade Honey Cask Finish is one of the more unique bourbons I’ve had in awhile. The honey influence is clear from start to finish, and imparts an unusually deep influence to the bourbon that you probably wouldn’t get by just blending bourbon and honey together. Kudos to Belle Meade for going out on a limb and trying this type of experimentation as the end result is really great, and makes me wish this would become a permanent product line from them.

‍The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Nelson's Green Brier Distillery. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

Written By: Jordan
Saint Cloud Kentucky Bourbon - 2016 Batch #1

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Saint Cloud Kentucky Bourbon

Distillery: Undisclosed

Proof: 120

Age: Under 4 Years

Mashbill: Undisclosed (Includes corn, rye, and malted barley)

MSRP: $93 (2019)

Official Website

Saint Cloud Kentucky Bourbon doesn’t look like a typical bourbon. Adorned in upscale packaging with a small, understated side label and rounded shoulders offset by a copper medallion and heavy copper stopper, it feels different. Like seeing a European sports car amid a range of more familiar pickup trucks, muscle cars, and the like. Rolling the bourbon around in the bottle I can see a healthy amount of sediment - a pleasing attribute as it typically means the bourbon has been minimally filtered. I later learned it was not filtered at all.

The bourbon is full bodied on the nose, with apple, summer fruits, and sweet caramel emanating from the glass. On the sip, it has a viscous, oily consistency. There’s a healthy dose of spice in the form of cinnamon and black pepper. The spice is countered by sweet black currants. As the spice fades, a summer fruit sweetness comes into play on the lingering finish.

Overall it’s robust, full-flavored, and unique tasting. There are echoes of youth, but not in the same way you might usually describe a young tasting bourbon. Rather, the lack of typical barrel and wood notes suggests youth - there is an absence of typical higher aged elements as opposed to a presence of the typical lesser aged flavors.

The side label bears a small gold signature - Ray Walker. Intrigued by the bottle design and flavor profile, I was excited to speak with Walker about this inaugural release. Saint Cloud Kentucky Bourbon is Walker's comeback story, but also a new beginning that honors Walker’s past with a family history that, according to Walker, has roots in Kentucky. Walker’s experience making wine - a spectacular rise to the top and fall to the bottom - is now being transitioned to his bourbon. His goal is exploration into the not-so-typical. In this case, a mashbill of more than 70% corn, less than 20% rye, and more than 10% malted barley (exact percentages were not disclosed), combined with a copper pot still, aging in french oak barrels, and then bottling at cask strength with no filtering results in something with a not-so-typical flavor profile. The current batch of 12 barrels, with a 3,000 bottle yield, is the first of many. Walker seeks to experiment, and see where each release - the aim being keeping them small - takes him.

Batch 1 is unique, and despite its young age really intrigued me. While it is pricey for a young bourbon, if you’re looking for something not-so-typical this fits the bill.

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

Written By: Nick
Old Forester Single Barrel - Crossroads Wine & Spirits Selection

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Brown-Forman Distilling Company

Distillery: Brown-Forman Distilling Company

Proof: 90

Age: NAS

Mashbill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

MSRP: $30 (2019)

Official Website

Anyone that’s been in liquor stores over the past year has probably noticed an uptick in private selections of Old Forester Single Barrel. This may have to do with other brands' private selection programs' lack of availability, or more with Brown-Forman rapidly expanding their program. Whatever the reason, it’s easier than ever to get your hands on a single barrel bottle of Old Forester.

We’ve noted before the brand’s inconsistencies in quality and the lack of excitement surrounding it. We found that changed for the better in our recent review of the much improved Old Forester 100 Signature. Using that release as a new baseline, it will be interesting to see if the brand’s overall quality bump and improved flavor profile carries over to their single barrel selections. Or do these single barrel releases repeat the sins of the brand’s past?

Much like the Old Forester Signature nose, caramel, cherry, and oak spring from the glass despite being 10 proof points less. Pecan takes a stronger presence with this single barrel, which makes for a very delicious smelling nose.

The palate and finish flow into each other with heavy oak and nut present, along with pepper and bitterness, which is typical with Old Forester products. These notes are more upfront compared to Old Forester Signature. At 90 proof, the bourbon is surprisingly quite punchy and bold. It does offer a slight variation of Signature’s flavor profile. It’s less sweet and focuses more on oak, nut, and dark fruits.

This single barrel is very much in the wheelhouse of the Old Forester flavor profile, and while this shouldn’t surprise anyone, the main benefit of single barrels is providing a variation of a standard product. For fans of heavier flavor profiles that lean towards dark fruits, leather, and dry oak as opposed to sweet oak, you’ll enjoy this single barrel.

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

Written By: Eric
Peerless Straight Rye Single Barrel Whiskey 3 Year

Classification: Straight Rye

Company: Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company

Distillery: Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company

Proof: 108.4

Age: 3 Years

Mashbill: Undisclosed

MSRP: $125 (2019)

Official Website

In 2014, the Peerless brand was reborn as Corky and Carson Taylor refurbished a building in downtown Louisville and obtained the original Kentucky Distilled Spirits Plant Number (DSP-KY-50) from the original Peerless Distillery in the 1800’s. In March of 2015 they barreled their first rye. The bottle being tasted was selected by Corky Taylor and Mitch Pats. It’s labeled number 150910103 and its. barrel was given the name “Project Black Friday.” It was September 11, 2015 and bottled on September 11, 2018, making this rye exactly 3 years old to the day.

Strong ethanol on the nose announces the 108.4 proof for this single barrel. Behind the ethanol are summer fruits, rye grain, and hints of banana chips and brown butter. The palate brings forth a wild ride. It’s both full of juicy summer fruit flavors yet with a defined rye spice, while still being very clear that it’s also a youthful whiskey and one that has a thinner mouthfeel. The sip ends by being dominated by an in-your-face fiery finish which consists of black pepper, rye grain, oak, and hints of leather.

This is still a youthful rye, and one that carries an inflated MSRP. This 3 year is developing nicely and is trending in a positive direction compared to the initial 2 year offering Peerless put out. This positive trend does make me excited to see what Peerless puts out once this rye has spent a few more years in the barrel. The extra time should also help finally justify the asking price that Peerless feels it should command. In the meantime however, this single barrel does make it clear that Corky and company have a knack for picking out unique tasting barrels that showcase the Peerless brand.

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

Written By: Jordan
Barrell Bourbon Batch 018 & 019

Barrell Bourbon Batch 018

Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons

Company: Barrell Craft Spirits

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

Proof: 111.56

Age: 11 Years (Blend of 11, 14, and 15 year old barrels)

Mashbill: Undisclosed (Includes corn, rye, and malted barley)

MSRP: $90 (2019)

Official Website


Barrell Bourbon Batch 019

Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons

Company: Barrell Craft Spirits

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

Proof: 109.4

Age: 9.5 Years (Blend of 9.5 to 14 year old barrels)

Mashbill: Undisclosed (Includes corn, rye, and malted barley)

MSRP: $90 (2019)

Official Website

Batches 018 and 019 are the latest in Barrell Craft Spirits’ Barrell Bourbon line, where each batch is unique and released at barrel proof.

The batches share distillation sources in Kentucky and Tennessee, along with a similar age and proof. While the labels denote the lowest age of whiskey contained in each blend, the company website provides more detail indicating older bourbon incorporated into each bottle. True to the nature of Barrell Bourbon batches, the blend of barrels from multiple distilleries and of varying ages (and, presumably, flavor profiles), suggests careful and purposeful curation.

Batch 018: According to the company, this blend started with an 11 year old blend, which was then given structure by incorporating 14 and 15 year old bourbons. Dark cherries and honey with a rye spice backbone form the aroma. This gives way to a full-bodied sip, with honey and caramel joined by graham crackers. A touch of heat introduces the finish, with a tidal wave of cinnamon spice transitioning to cane sugar and caramel sweetness. The bourbon handles its high proof nicely, giving the cinnamon spice note the spotlight while allowing sweeter flavors to complement it, all the while keeping any trace of excessive heat in check while still maintaining a healthy amount of spice.

Batch 019: According to the company, a careful selection of 9.5 to 14 year old barrels from Kentucky and Tennessee were sorted into five groups. Portions of those five groups were then blended together to maximize unique qualities of each. Sweet aromas are on display, with vanilla and maple syrup joined by dried apricots. The palate gives way to an assembly of sweets - maple sugar candy, candied raisins, and a caramel note reminiscent of Werther’s Original candies. Dark cherries complement the candy flavors. A light spice develops on the tongue, with a warming peppery rye that morphs to a lingering rock candy note on the finish. Overall a complex bourbon with a traditional flavor profile that should satisfy bourbon purists.

While they appear similar on the surface, batches 018 and 019 deliver very different drinking experiences. In my discussions with company founder Joe Beatrice over the years, it’s clear blending is a meticulous and careful process the company takes seriously. The nuances that arise in the end result are proof of concept, and evident with the batches here.

As you’re probably wondering which batch I prefer, the answer is simply that it depends on my mood. Batch 018 offers up a healthy dose of spice, arousing the senses with cinnamon spice as the star of the show. Batch 019 is more of a quintessential bourbon, with dark fruit and sweeter notes delivered in what forms a complex array of flavors. Interestingly, sipping these side by side reminds me of Batch 005 and Batch 006, my first experience with Barrell Bourbon. I liken Batch 018 to 005 with its dominant spice notes, while Batch 019 shares Batch 006’s impeccable balance and complexity. With these latest batches Barrell continues to impress, and live up to its premium price point.

The samples used for this review are from production bottles and were provided at no cost courtesy of Barrell Craft Spirits. We thank them for the samples and for allowing us to review them with no strings attached.

Written By: Nick
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof - Batch B519

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Heaven Hill

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Proof: 122.2

Age: 12 Years

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

MSRP: $60 (2019)

Official Website

Hot off the heels of Batch A119, which we tasted a few weeks ago, comes the latest batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.

This particular batch is noteworthy as it clocks in at a lower proof than ever before for the brand. This makes it inherently easier to drink, as the brand often lands on the hot side of 130 proof. Instead of having to water down a previous batch to match this release, this is batched uncut at 122.2 proof. Theoretically, this makes its flavor profile taste rather potent despite being lower in proof than previous releases as the lower proof should allow more flavor to show through. For that reason, this particular batch might get more attention than normal.

The nose features very traditional bourbon aromas at first whiff. Steadfast scents of vanilla, caramel, and oak flow out of the glass and signal its high proof. Additional notes of apple, apricot, and faint orange rind help add some complexity. On the palate, it’s surprisingly citrusy at first sip, with lemon and lime greeting your tongue before creamy caramel, toffee, and dark fruits take over. The finish is heavy on oak, which translates into a long, dry, and mildly bitter aftertaste. Some sweetness is present, before spice rolls in.

Heaven Hill long ago proved the value and quality consistency of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. It would be more of a surprise nowadays if they released a batch that was less than great. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof may not always be the most complex barrel proof bourbon on the market, but it's known for its richness and continues to be a great buy..

Overall Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch B519 is a very palatable sipper that allows the brand’s flavor profile to shine a bit more, instead of fighting against its proof. Coincidently, last year’s George T. Stagg also came in its lowest released proof at 124.9. We noted this allowed the depth of flavors to really come through without a mask of heat. That is true here too, but Elijah Craig doesn’t quite have the same overly unique flavor profile that Stagg has. This means Batch B519’s flavor intensity might not be tasted to the same degree as last year’s Stagg experienced. Because of this lower proof, I also wouldn’t be surprised at all if some called this batch their favorite Elijah Craig Barrel Proof batch yet.  

Written By: Eric
Jim Beam Single Barrel - CrossRoads Wine & Spirits

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Beam Suntory

Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery

Proof: 95

Age: NAS

Mashbill: 77% Corn 13% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

MSRP: $30 (2019)

Official Website

Jim Beam is a fairly expansive brand, ranging in proof, age, whiskey types, and even released in a variety of flavors (though once flavor is added it’s no longer considered bourbon). Jim Beam Bourbon is the flagship brand, though it shares a mashbill with other Beam bourbons including Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Booker’s. Unlike the latter three, however, Jim Beam generally seems to cater less to the bourbon enthusiast crowd. Despite this, Jim Beam Single Barrel is offered as a standalone bottling as well as a private selection option, giving enthusiasts the opportunity to discover something a little more special. This particular barrel was selected by CrossRoads Wine & Spirits located in the small city of Bryant, Arkansas. It comes in at the standard 95 proof and is from barrel JB7079.

On the nose apples, rye spice, and vanilla compete with a healthy dose of ethanol. The ethanol disappears with the sip, instead brining a well rounded mix of caramel, brown sugar, graham crackers, rye spice, and oak. While the mouthfeel is on the thin side at first, it coats the mouth, lingering into the finish. Sweeter notes of caramel and vanilla dominate the finish, with a hint of apricot and trace of rye spice sticking around.

I’ve always found Jim Beam to be a pretty boring bourbon, including the off-the-shelf Single Barrel version. This particular barrel brings an element of intrigue I’ve yet to find in the brand. Aside from the heavy-handed dose of ethanol on the nose, the rest of the sip offers an enjoyable experience.  

The sample used for this review is from a production bottle and was provided at no cost courtesy of CrossRoads Wine & Spirits. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.

Written By: Nick
Smugglers’ Notch Straight Bourbon

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Smugglers’ Notch Distillery

Distillery: Sourced

Proof: 90

Age: NAS

Mashbill: Undisclosed

MSRP: $50 (2019)

Official Website

Jeffersonville, Vermont is known for the numerous ski resorts nearby, but more interestingly, it’s also located by the foothills of Smugglers’ Notch. During the 1800’s, the U.S. Congress placed an embargo on the imports of all English goods. In an attempt to skirt this, the British shipped their goods to Canada and smuggled them down what became known as Smugglers’ Notch Pass. Why this is important (besides being a cool bit of history), is because that same trail was again used during Prohibition to smuggle alcohol.

With this little bit of interesting booze history in tow, the father and son team of Ron and Jeremy Elliott opened Smugglers’ Notch Distillery in 2006. Ron, a retired business executive, and Jeremy, a research chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, used their backgrounds to open a distillery well before the craft distillery boom, and focused on all types of spirits. Their current whiskey lineup consists of a straight bourbon, rye, wheated whiskey, and a bourbon finished with 100% pure Vermont maple syrup.

Smugglers’ Notch Straight Bourbon opens with a rush of vanilla and caramel followed by lemon and orange citrus on the nose. It’s traditional, yet satisfying. The palate is quite sweet at first sip, allowing for an interesting interplay with the bourbon’s spicer and hotter side. This caramel and butterscotch sweetness also makes it an easy sipper for a 90 proof bourbon. Oak takes over on the finish providing a heavy contrast to the palate.

This is a bourbon very segmented, unlike some bourbons’ palates that gently flow into their finish. It also has a lingering aftertaste of chocolate, caramel, and grain notes that adds to this bourbon’s distinct parts.

Smugglers’ Notch Straight Bourbon isn’t necessarily a cohesive bourbon and instead provides a bit of a roller coaster ride of its flavor profile. Despite being open since 2006, surprisingly this is a sourced bourbon, which the Elliotts then age, blend, proof with Vermont water, and bottle in Vermont. It does taste a little grainy on the aftertaste, but overall it’s a fun sipper.

Written By: Eric
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