Monday, April 29, 2013

Blind Tasting Sample #3: Four Roses, OESK, Cask Strength Single Barrel

I've made no secret of my love for Four Roses, so I had to include a sample in the tasting.  Of the 10 Four Roses recipes, I picked OESK because I had only had it once, but I thought it was amazing. The barrel in which this bottle originated was picked as a private selection by maybe the best liquor store in the US, The Party Source. It clocked in at 116 proof and was aged for nine years. The "E" designation means it is the low-rye recipe (higher in corn) and the "K" yeast provides a spicy, full bodied flavor. On to the tasting notes:

Overall: 85.4


Generally speaking, I loved this one. I'm going to try to pick apart the individual elements for the sake of giving thorough notes, but the bottom line is that I think this is absolutely delicious. It's the first of the three that I was floored by in all aspects: nose, flavor, finish, everything.

Nose: dark fruits maserated in alcohol. (Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds.) Banana pudding with those little bready cookie pieces. Totally un-boozy. Delicious.

Taste: Full and syrupy mouth feel. More wood than you'd expect from the scent, but still incredibly mellow. A hint of spice but not much.

Finish: Little more spicy than it is on the tongue, the alcohol comes through a bit more here. Dried cherries. Touch of oak.

Overall: 91


nose: bright - vanilla and orange

taste: custard with burnt sugar; big and sweet

finish: smooth texture that fades slowly with slight burn like candied ginger


overall: 91


This is a light easy drinking Bourbon.  The initial nose is almost minty, the taste has a very light spice, not a strong body but with a soft vanilla finish.  I would guess this is a rye in the 80 proof range.



Nose was astringent with caramel. Taste and finish were not very neat or clean. It was kind of messy, actually, and noticeably thicker than, say, Sample #2. Was unable to discern much in the way of actual flavors. Not very good. 75.


Nose: Corn stalk and sweet corn, heat, with a hint of peanut

Taste: Very Sweet, slightly cloying. Some grassiness here.

Finish: Sweetness lingers awhile, but it fades into a weird funk.

Overall: 82


Final words: I was highly disappointed in my palate on this one.  I made the cardinal sin of blind tastings--I tried to guess the bourbon rather than just trying to decide if I liked it.  Like I said in the intro, this is a recipe I've liked in the past (and last weekend in Kentucky I had a lot of it and loved it), so I'm not sure what my palate was doing here. It was highly sweet, but that's to be expected with the E recipe. One thing that stands out was how easy this was to drink, despite the 116 proof.  That's one thing I experienced at the Four Roses barrel tasting last week--even at barrel proof, there's very little heat with a well aged Four Roses.

Anyhow, despite my low rating (and Jon's too), this one scored pretty well.  It's one I'd definitely like to spend some more time with.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Old Kentucky Home!

On Wednesday I'm flying to Louisville, Kentucky to attend my first bourbon sampler. Each year about this time, bourbon afficiandos from all over the country decend on Bardstown, KY to eat, drink bourbon, and be merry. (and drink some more bourbon!)

I'm lucky enough to be participating in some bourbon private barrel selections at Four Roses and Buffalo Trace. It's hard to put into words how excited I am to take part. Since I'm a rookie at barrel selections, I'll be leaning heavily on veterans like Greg the Bourbon Dork@iMacinJosh and bunch of other fellow bourbon drinkers I have a ton of respect for. The group is also tasting some barrels at Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, but sadly I'm missing that event.

I hope to post some pictures and a summary when I return. I'll likely live tweet some pictures--basically bourbon porn--so if you're so inclined, you can follow me @keithb18.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Blind Tasting Selection #2: Willett Straight Rye, Aged 4 Years

The Willett brand is released by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers located in Bardstown, KY.  They recently started distilling, but for a number of years they occupied an interesting segment of the bourbon
Sample pic, because I wasn't smart
enough to take pics of the
bottles before I tossed them.
market: They purchased barrels of whiskey from other distilleries and released them as single barrel, cask strength selections under the Willett brand or blended them to create something (hopefully) greater than the sum of its parts. They release a number of of these brands, including Noah's Mill and Johnny Drum.

This barrel of straight rye is from Indiana based distiller MGPI (former LDI). MGPI does not sell any of its whiskey at the retail level, but you've probably tasted it. Many micro-distilleries are buying MGPI juice to fill their bottles while their own new make ages. 

Anyhow, this bottle straight rye was 110 proof and aged 4 years. Let's see the notes:

Average: 85.75


Appearance: Slightly pale in color

Nose: sweet white grapes, vaguely like a dessert wine; hints of leather on second extended sniff after tasting

Taste: toffee, nice sweetness without seeming cloying or syrupy, quite hot. Rounds out some as I taste it more.

Finish: short with a kind of apple tartness

Thought this one was generally quite good, though something keeps me from loving it. Maybe just a bit tart for my tastes. Lot of its good qualities are similar to Pappy 15. That (and especially a nice mellow sweetness mid-palate) makes me suspect it's a wheater, guessing around 100 proof.


Bubblegum, a little bit of vanilla. Very thin and sweet. No spice. Some tropical fruit (I can't figure out which) and bubblegum. Medium finish, sweet, fruity favors linger. 89


nose: rich, smooth, sweet, almost chocolaty

taste: same sweet and chocolate notes carry over to the taste; little bit of burn on the tongue and some oak, too

finish: finish is warm but never really develops beyond the initial impression; still the oak

overall: first swirl in the glass had me hoping for something big; in the end, not bad, not great - 82


Nose: Caramel & butterscotch, hint of barrel char and sweetness. Thought it was an outstanding nose

Taste: Velvet and soft mouth feel, nicely balanced vanilla and cream. Some mustiness on the front end

Finish: Some toffee, but fades too quickly.

Overall: 84, loses points for mustiness.

Not Tasting: Kyle, Jason

Interesting result here as no one picked out the minty note typically associated with MGPI juice. Interesting enough to wonder if there was a labeling mistake here.  I don't think that's the case, but we'll know if we get a mint bomb in a subsequent sample.

That said, it could be that we got a bottle from a barrel that didn't develop that way. 85.75 isn't a bad score for a four year old whiskey--given a few more years in a barrel this MGPI juice could really develop nicely.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Capitol Bourbon Committee Blind Tasting Bourbon #1: Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon

The Capitol Bourbon Committee recently began its first blind tasting.  I purchased eight different American whiskies, divided them up, had my wife label them, and then distributed them to the group.  All any of us knew about them is that they are American whiskey.  The Committee then provided tasting notes. We think this will be a lot of fun.

The blind samples ready for distribution.
Our first selection was the latest release of Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve. Recently, WTRR went from a 10 year old, 90 proof to a no age statement barrel proof bourbon. In this case, the bourbon is 110 proof, which seems about right given that Wild Turkey allegedly has some of the lowest barrel entry proofs in the business. It has been a popular release among bourbon enthusiasts, as we generally like barrel proof offerings (we hate paying for water) and the price is pretty fair--I picked this bottle up for about $46--for a barrel proof bottle. On to the notes.

Average Score: 81.8

Nose is slightly astringent. (Literally: hint of cleaning solution, maybe some spearmint.) Mouthfeel somewhat thin, nice heat despite not being very high proof (I'd guess). Taste is a little ordinary, though that nice heat is noticeable in the finish. Underwhelmed. 75/100.

Very smokey almost "scotch-ish".  Nice initial pepper taste with a fairly smooth lingering finish.  I really like the flavor and would score this 75/100.

nose: leathery with a slightly pungent alcohol burn; behind that it's sweeter with hints of vanilla and an almost floral quality

taste: peppery and spicy on the tongue with a little bit of citrus zest

finish: spice quickly gives way to a warm, big sweetness and a little bit of fig; with a little bit of water or ice the finish rounds out to a smooth butterscotch
overall score = 87
As an aside: I was a little put off by the strength of this at first, but as my palate adjusted I noticed more complexity and really enjoyed it in the end.

Nose: Alcohol, even after adding some water.
Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve

Taste: Hints of honey and vanilla.

Finish: Long, with the vanilla lingering.

Score: I think my score for this first one would only be an 85. Too much alcohol really obscures the other flavors for me, but the ones I got weren't all that interesting.

Missing in Action, probably due to a newborn baby.


Nose: Caramel, vanilla, barrel char, cinnamon and spice

Taste: Bubblegum, some plum I think, fairly hot (needs water), caramel and vanilla, with a full mouthfeel

Finish: Very sweet, hot, and medium length

Overall: 87. A nice whiskey, balanced with sweet and spicy notes. It is hot, so adding water is recommended.