Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wheater Wednesday: Old Weller Antique

Note: Wheater Wednesday is a result of a massive blind wheated bourbon tasting that recently concluded. All bourbons rated here are publicly available.

Old Weller is an iconic wheated whiskey brand from Buffalo Trace.  It claims to be the first bourbon to use wheat in its mash bill, which may very well be true.  Old Weller Antique is bottled at 107 proof and carries no age statement.

Nose: Vanilla and caramel with some corn notes.  Pleasing maple sweetness--a very nice nose.

Taste: Starts and ends sweet.  This is obviously a wheater.  Maple, vanilla, corn, maple syrup.  Is consistent with the nose.

Finish:  Sweet and lingering in a jolly rancher sort of war.

Overall:  89.  The thing that held this one back from a 90+ score is the sticky sweetness of the finish.  But an otherwise very fine bourbon.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Henry McKenna 10 Year Single Barrel Bottled in Bond

McKenna is on the far left with the green foil.
Henry McKenna 10 year old single barrel bottled in bond bourbon is an often overlooked offering from Heaven Hill Distillery.  According to their marketing copy and my own anecdotal experience, it is one of the "extra-aged" bottled in bond bourbons on the market.  It is also a single barrel, so I included it in the committee's end of year picks to represent Heaven Hill.  I nearly chose Evan Williams Single Barrel, but McKenna offering a little bit more proof and being bottled in bond tipped the scale in McKenna's favor.  The end of year selections were not tasted blind.

The formal tasting notes come from committee member Kyle.

Nose: Some light barrel pointing to a middle age range. Light butterscotch and some syrup.

Taste:  Hot, it fills the mouth mouth well but is slightly thin.

Finish: Strong lingering finish on tip of the tongue and on the cheeks.

Overall: 75

Obviously, Kyle did not care for this bourbon.  I did not do formal tasting notes, but I suspect this would fall somewhere in the low to mid-80s for me.  I recently finished a bottle and it was an inoffensive, straightforward bourbon that I would pour on a weeknight.  It's not special, but it's not horrible.

I am not sure what Heaven Hill is doing with the brand.  The 10 year old single-barrel, bottled in bond thing is pretty unique--I'm not aware of anything else like it on the market.  The problem is that it just isn't that great of a bourbon.  I wonder if these are the same barrels that go into regular Henry McKenna, a bottom shelf offering, just aged longer. If that's the case it strikes me as an odd strategy because bottled in bonds and single barrels usually gain some traction with bourbon geeks like me.  But this offering is mostly forgettable, for good reason.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wheater Wednesday, Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year 90 Proof

Note: Wheater Wednesday is a result of a massive blind wheated bourbon tasting that recently concluded. The bourbons rated here are publicly available.

Next up is Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year 90 proof, often abbreviated ORVW 10/90.  ORVW 10/90 is part of the most sought after bourbon family in the bourbon world: Pappy Van Winkles.  Pappy Van Winkle makes extraordinarily good bourbon, but if you're a bourbon drinker, you already know all this.  ORVW 10/90 is one of the lesser known offerings.  It is a close cousin to a bottle I try to keep on my shelf, ORVW 10/107.  The Van Winkle lineup also includes a 12, 15, 20, and 23 year old bourbons, and a 12 year old rye.  The Van Winkles have released various other products over the years, but my basic rule of thumb has always been that if I see any Van Winkle offering on the shelf, I purchase it.  That is, until now...

I had not had ORVW 10/90 until this tasting.  Remember, I tasted all these bourbons blind.  On to the notes:

Nose: Young and corn forward, some vanilla and corn stalk.

Taste: Like bourbon flavored water.  There's not much to this bourbon.  Thin and watery.  I wouldn't have even thought this was a wheater cause there is almost no sweetness.

Finish: A slight tingle on the back of the tongue.

Overall: 78.  When I found out the identity of this bourbon I was mildly shocked.  I've always like ORVW 10/107, but then again, I've always known what was in my glass.

Some other reviews:

Sour Mash Manifesto (Put SMM in your reader. Jason Pyle is one of the best bourbon bloggers around.)

Whiskey Apostle

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tasting Notes: Parker's Heritage Collection 2012

Parker's Heritage Collection is a highly sought after annual release from Heaven Hill distillery.  The Heritage Collection allows Parker and Craig Beam, the father-son Master Distiller team at HH, to really explore the studio space in the Heaven Hill rick houses.  In past years, they've released a wheated bourbon finished in cognac casks, an ultra-aged bourbon (27 years) and a cask proof wheated bourbon among others.

PHC 2012
This year they've a high proof, 131.6 proof, mix of wheat and rye mash bills.  I was able to secure this bottle from Hi-Time Wine out of California.  I've spent some time with this bourbon, as I've tasted it a couple times over the course of the past 6 weeks or so.  On to the details:

Nose: Cinnamon, orange peel, and a whiff tobacco and leather.  I can tell from the nose that this is a complex bourbon.

Taste:  A maple sweetness on the tip of the tongue upon entry.  As it moves across the tongue, I got some traditional rye spiciness, and on the back of tongue I got more of the pleasing sweetness usually associated with a wheater.

Finish:  A nice complex mix of spice and sweet.

Overall:  I rate this at 89.  This improved a good deal after I opened.  When I first tasted it a few weeks ago,  I did not care for it.  After opening up some, it seems to have improved.  I'd be interested to taste this blind, since I know what's in it, I know what to taste for.  It would be interesting to see what I could pick out not knowing what it is.

All that said, it isn't as good as some of the Parker's Heritage Releases, though I haven't tasted them all.  The 2011 cognac barrel finished bourbon is one of my all time favorites, but this one does not reach that level.  It's a good bourbon though, and and if you can find for around $70, I think you should buy it.  I bought two; one to drink and one to bunker.

(Cross-posted at my wife's blog, Bourbon and Chocolate)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wheater Wednesday: Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond

Note: Wheater Wednesday is a result of a massive blind wheated bourbon tasting that recently concluded. The bourbons rated here are publicly available.

Old Fitz BiB is a Heaven Hill product that I'd never tasted before.  It's a mid-shelf bourbon that can be tough to find in some areas.  It is 100 proof (obviously, it is bottled-in-bond), and no age statement that I can see.  (I haven't actually had a bottle, just a sample.)  Anyway, on to the tasting notes:

Nose: Some slight maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, flavorful and inviting.  I got some barrel influence as well.

Taste: Wood forward and some satisfying vanilla up front. Maple and dry moving back but not as much of the sweetness expected from a wheater. After it opened up, the wood receded a bit.

Finish: Sweet and pleasant.  The woodiness hung around awhile.

Overall:  84.  This was average an average bourbon.  As always, YMMV.

Some other reviews are here:

The Last Shall Be First

The Bourbon Observer

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four Roses Blind Tasting: Committee Report

A couple weeks ago the Capitol Bourbon Committee met to blind taste the three standard Four Roses offerings: Yellow Label, Small Batch and Single Barrel.  The Yellow Label offering is a blend of all ten Four Roses Recipes and clocks in at 80 proof.  Small Batch contains four recipes at 90 proof.  The Single Barrel was the standard single barrel recipe, OBSV, and was 100 proof.

The tasting spread.
Four Roses is my favorite bourbon, so I was excited to see how our panel of seven tasters (six members and one special guest) rated each selection.

In a general sense, all seven tasters tasted definite differences between what turned out to be the Yellow Label and the Small Batch and Single Barrel.   And by that I mean that the Small Batch and Single Barrel stood out above the Yellow label in nose, taste, and finish.

The Single Barrel was the coverall winner with an average score of 90.25.  Small Batch came in a close second at 89.8, while Yellow Label lagged behind at 87.  Even at 87, Yellow Label received an excellent score. (In fact, I took a bunch of it home and drank almost all of it during Hurricane Sandy!)

The tasting notes are summarized below:

Yellow Label (Sample A)

Nose:  caramel, light, maple, hot, flat, some sweetness and chocolate, sweet fruits, corn, grass, floral, mild

Taste:  Rye, light and smooth, more misty pepper than sweetness, up-front fruit, velvet-y mouth feel, slight honey, corn and charcoal, floral and mellow, some vanilla, an easy drinker.

Finish: short with some pleasant spiciness, smooth with a nice linger, wheat-y and a slight burn, corn and sugar

Small Batch (Sample B)

The Four Roses Collection
Nose: Vanilla, orange zest, sweeter than A, bold with a slight burn, cotton candy, leather, oak, bold spiciness, some vanilla, and floral notes

Taste:  smooth, berry flavors, sweet start with spice in the middle, strong and creamy, mild alcohol, delicate, vanilla, rich, deep leather, some corn and floral, tannins, low heat, pleasing spice, vanilla and caramel

Finish: Vanilla, oak, balanced with trailing sweet finish, very smooth, leather and tannins, sweet and spicy finish, I love this finish!

Single Barrel OBSV (Sample C)

Nose: butterscotch, thick, raisin, soft leather, hot, floral, molasses, spicy caramel

Taste: Earthy, charcoal, spices, pepper, hot on front of tongue, vanilla custard, spiciness, floral flavors, vanilla, cinnamon and nice heat.

Finish: Smooth spice, rounded and hints of leather and vanilla, great finish, creamy on the tongue, a slow burn, spicy and vanilla.

Last words:  I can tell by the handwriting that as we progressed we got a little tipsy.  We also got to bullshitting and maybe weren't as diligent with the notes as we could of been.  It scarcely matters.  The Capitol Bourbon Committee isn't about formally scoring bourbons; it's about getting together with a few friends and sharing the bourbon experience.   A great time was had by all, and we are already planning our future events.