Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Underappreciated and Overlooked Bourbon #2: Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage

Every year Heaven Hills releases a "vintage" single barrel version of it's flagship brand Evan Williams. They are aged just under 10 years and bottled at 86 proof. The price is typically under $30, which isn't too bad for a single barrel release. Quality has varied over the years, which you would expect given the single barrel nature and the vagaries of the aging process.

Average Score: 83


Color and nose: This pour is mainly sandy taupe, but reflects darker colors; at certain angles it could pass as thinned wood stain. The nose is heavy with fruit and sweetness. Under some banana peeks sweet corn.
Taste and finish: Initially I was hit with corn, but that celeritously dissipated into a cacophony of charcoal and brown sugar. Not much spice or kick to speak of with this one. The finish returns to the banana and corn.
Overall: Like last week’s, I rate this whiskey a solid meh, too. Quite drinkable, but acutely uninteresting. 82/100.


Nose:    full bodied and big, sweet bouquet suggests high alcohol; brown sugar

Taste:    deceptively spicy following big aromatic punch

Finish:    lingering warmth mellows to fig

Overall: 88


Nose:  pretty nice

Taste:  Not bad.  Dry with a little burn. 

Finish:  Slight burn continues

Overall:  Nothing exciting but not a bad bourbon.  82


Nose: Musty with a heavy wood influence

Taste: watery mouth feel, with little in the way of flavor. Some caramel hints.

Finish: non-existent. Very short.

Overall: 80. Perfectly boring. Nothing to excite or disappoint.

Final words: The average score of 83 seems about right to me. There isn't a whole lot here in the way of flavor, but it is completely inoffensive. I'd like to see this released at 100 or 107 proof just to see if that dials up the flavor a little.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Unappreciated and Overlooked Blind Tasting #1, Mellow Corn

Corn whiskey occupies a rather strange, IMO, area of American whiskey. It must be at least 80% corn mash, which would qualify it for bourbon, but it is aged in used cooperage. Bourbon, as you know, must be aged in new white oak. It tends to sell better in the deep south (or so I've been told) and it can be harder to find, even in DC.

Mellow Corn is one of the most popular corn whiskies. It is 100 proof and bottled in bond. I secured this bottle from the Party Source. We all tasted it blind, but it wasn't truly blind for me--I could tell simply by the light color that this was the Mellow Corn (I divide up the whiskey and my patient, lovely wife applies the numbered labels and creates the key). Mellow Corn is super cheap--this bottle, with shipping, cost less than $14.

Average Score: 81.2



Nose: Cornstalk, buttery popcorn, somewhat flat.

Taste: Popcorn/summer corn, some wood. Kind of an interesting mix.

Finish: A little hot, particularly for 100 proof. Consistent with the taste as far as flavors go.

Overall: 82. A really consistent pour. Doesn't do much, but it is perfectly drinkable.


Nose: light floral character; hint of leather

Taste: first impression was bitter oak with an acridity that was hard to get past; more pleasant with addition of some water; subtle taste of fig.

Finish: lingers on the palate with a warmth and a little bit of honey

Overall: 83


Color and nose: This bourbon is a pale goldenrod, much lighter than the others and almost pilsner-colored, giving the impression that it might edge towards thinness. The nose provides corn, brown sugar, vanilla, and raisin. At first whiff, there is not a whole lot going on here.

Taste and Finish: The immediate effect is a healthy dose of corn husk, thin on the tongue but heating as it goes along. The brown sugar and vanilla from the nose have coalesced during the taste into the oak from whence they came. The alcohol, benign at first, really heats from the back of the mouth to the front as the finish gains momentum. The finish is heavy on charcoal with plenty of the corn husk for good measure.

Overall: This whiskey gets a solid meh.  It seems to be an elements bourbon, no frills and all the bases covered with just enough burn to remind you you’re drinking booze. It’s perfectly fine.

Overall: 82


Nose: Sweet and floral

Taste: Spicy with some nutmeg

Finish: Surprisingly crisp and clean

Overall: 84


Nose:  Not much to note.  Fairly weak.  A slight burn upon sticking my nose right in it and taking a big whiff.

Taste:  Starts fairly nondescript but pleasant enough.  Somewhat thin and easy going down, but again a bit of a burn on the back end.  Ending with a strange and funky flavor.

Finish:  The fairly unpleasant aftertaste permeates.

Overall:  Drinkable enough but not a bourbon I would return to often.  75

Final comments: The scores were fairly tightly bunched. High of 83 and a low of 75. The jury is in on this one--it is drinkable but it isn't going to blow your socks off. For $9.99 (if you can find it on a shelf), it really isn't much of a risk.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Members and a New Blind Tasting

We've added two new members, Will and Chris. We're also kicking off a new 6 American whiskey blind tasting soon. The first reviews are due 1 September. I'm looking forward to it as we've got several whiskies I've not tried or not tried in several years.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Blind Sample #8, Jim Beam Black Label

The final sample was Jim Beam Black Label. At 86 proof and 8 years of age, it is my understanding that this is the same juice as Jim Beam White Label, except aged twice as long. I am personally not a really big fan of Jim Beam, but I thought I'd throw this in the tasting as something of a ringer. The results were interesting, especially for Jason.  The notes:

Average: 82.75


Nose is green and vegetal. Light and woody notes to begin with, plus a little bit of spice and some bite on the back of the tongue. Short finish, very little lingering taste; what there is is wood and spice.

​This is a nice, light whiskey with enough bite to distinguish itself. Quite herbal on the whole without much sweetness at all.



Color and nose: A deep bistre brown through the center, paling through to the edges. This looks like a whisky with something to offer. The nose is luscious, providing bits of rye, bananas, salty caramel, leather, and just a hint of corn. It seems to have more of a punch than most of the recent tastings, but not more (much more at least) than 100 proof.

Taste and finish: The initial taste is strong in peppery spice and sweet corn. The bananas and caramel come through with grass and oak. A strong drink and yet the flavor is quite round, stimulating the entirety of the tongue and roof of the mouth. The finish arrives as a sort of smoke ring of brown sugar and that peppery, rye-like spice, radiating from the back of the mouth to the fore as the last of the taste goes down.

Overall: This is an exceptional whisky. It is complex, but is not complicated. Contrasting flavors – spice and sweet, desserts and nature – are balanced in a refined manner rarely seen in a whisky. They are not only balanced, they manage to amplify each other. This is the Titian of whiskies. I am reticent to rate any whisky as classic, this one included, and give this one a high 94/100. A truly excellent whisky.


Nose: fruity and bright with cherry or pomegranate

Taste: dry and slightly peppery; the fruit is still there, with some oak

Finish: fruit dissipates to reveal some sweet smokiness; tobacco

Overall: 85


Note: My notes are going to be biased, as I've already admitted, I typically dislike Jim Beam. Since I purchased the bourbon, I knew what this one was prior to drinking simply by elimination.

Nose: Yeast, cornstalk, earthiness, bread, slightly astringent, popcorn

Taste: Cloyingly sweet, thin mouth feel, very slight barrel influence. It's just very sweet and one dimensional.

Finish: Not much of anything. Maybe a hint of barrel flavor.

Overall: 70. Nothing to see here--just a bland, cloying bourbon worth drinking only if your wife leaves you and takes your dog with her.  After a few sips, I drowned mine in Diet Coke.

Final Words: Something of a polarizing bourbon. Outside of a blind tasting, I don't even think it would have done this well, which is one of the awesome things about blind tastings. Jason found a bourbon that he really enjoys for about $20 a bottle. You really can't beat that.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blind Sample #7, Rock Hill Farms

Rock Hill Farms has long been one of my favorite Buffalo Trace offerings. I reviewed it back in September and rated it a 92 so I was really interested to see what the rest of the committee thought. The bourbon is Buffalo Trace's mash bill #2, which has a higher percentage of rye than their flagship offering Buffalo Trace. (Mash bill #2 is also used for Elmer T. Lee and Blantons.) Rock Hill Farms is a single barrel bourbon that sells for around $50 in the DC area. Obviously, since it is a single barrel, it is going to vary some from bottle to bottle.  On to the notes:

Average: 82.25


Color and nose: A crystal clear ochre. The nose is pleasant: slightly sweet with corn, rye, tannins, nondescript spice, and a touch of menthol.

Taste and finish: Not high in alcohol, this drink hits the tip of the tongue. The taste is high in corn and wood. There are bits of spice, but not as much as I had hoped based on the nose. The finish is strong on corn and caramel, dissolving into the menthol.

Overall: A nice little whisky. It is not complex or bland.  I have been a bit frustrated at the dominance of corn in this round of blind tastings and may be a bit sensitive to it for a bit as a result. It seems to me that this whisky is nearly ready to break out, but just isn’t quite rounded enough to move into the very good category. Until this line cuts on the corn it remains merely good. 84/100


Nose: sweet and light; a little leathery

Taste: light and peppery on the tongue; first impression is heavy with oak

Finish: A bit of ice mellows the oak bitterness and leaves the sweetness to come through, but not much else save for some chalkiness

Overall: 80


Nose is rather boozy, some notes of orange peel. Opens brightly and with heat on the palate, then lots of mint and other herbal, medicinal flavors. Plenty of heat in the finish and an aftertaste utterly devoid of sweetness. Not fussy on this one. 78/100.


Nose: Spice, green apple, cotton candy, corn stalk

Taste: Corn foward, little heat, spice and green apple

Finish: Fruity sweetness, quite pleasant and medium length

Overall: 87

Jon, Kyle


Parting words: Man, tough crowd. I've heard rumors that Buffalo Trace may have reduced the age of this bourbon and our notes seem to bear that out. In my experience, corn forward notes tend to round out after sufficient time in the barrel (say, maybe six or eight years maybe). A few of us noted a corn forward taste. It could have also been a less than stellar barrel. Either way, I remain in the "buy" camp while my fellow members probably recommend passing on this one.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thoughts on the Facebook Bourbon Exchange

For many years, eBay allowed the sale of bourbon, as long as the seller posted a disclaimer saying that "The value of this bottle is the bottle, not the contents" or something similar. It was laughable, but it gave people a secondary market for bourbon. Unfortunately, it was illegal--spirit sales are fairly tightly controlled you can get yourself into trouble by selling or trading privately. Six months or so ago, eBay cracked down on the issue and since then, they have not allowed the listing of whiskey on its site. It was probably a good decision for eBay, but predictably, a new site has popped up; the Facebook group titled "Bourbon Exchange."

Before I get into my thoughts on Bourbon Exchange, I'd like to comment on the insanity of the three tier system of alcohol distribution. You cannot go to the website of your favorite distillery and buy a bottle of their whiskey. That's because the whiskey has to travel through the producer, distributor, and the retailer before you can get your hands on it. (A partial exception applies to sales at the distillery, but even so, if I understand correctly, the distillery still has to do the paperwork. So in practice, they become their own distributor for on-site sales.) The system makes very little sense and it is a relic of prohibition era moralism.  In many states, the state government owns the retail stores--Virginia for example. Spirits distribution is pretty clearly not a "free" market in any sense of the word.

All of this creates a perfect scenario for a secondary market. I can't prove this, but it has been alleged that some retailers were putting up their allocations of hard to find whiskies like Pappy van Winkle on eBay because they could connect with a buyer with more money than sense. Some private collectors were hoarding good whiskey and selling it to the same people. More honest retailers, like K&L out of California ran auctions on their own site, just to point out the absurdity of prices people were paying. (Jefferson's Ocean went for over $1,000.)

Whiskey, and bourbon in particular, is in a bubble situation. More experienced bourbon aficionados remember when Pappy would sit on the shelf untouched. People newer to bourbon hear how great Pappy is and pay hundreds of dollars just to get their own bottle.

Which brings me to the Facebook bourbon exchange. It is almost perfect that Facebook is the end point to the bourbon insanity. In a very slightly veiled way, people are posting bottles for sale on the site, similar to the way they posted bottles on eBay. It's all probably illegal, but not entirely surprising. I have some very conflicting thoughts on the issue.

On the one hand, after a lot of work, I'm sitting on a bunker of bourbon that could fetch up to, say, $2,000 if I were willing to sell it on Bourbon Exchange. On the other hand, I didn't pay near that amount for the bottles and to sell it for $2,000 would be a rip off for the buyer. I want to be clear here--I don't blame any of my bourbon friends for selling their bottles via Bourbon Exchange. It's been highly tempting to me, and $2,000 would more than pay for my bourbon consumption for a year; maybe two. (Many of my bourbon friends have bunkers that exceed mine by a factor of 100.)

But I just can't bring myself to do it. I'd be a terrible business man--I don't want to rip people off, especially the people that share my hobby. But again, I won't blame you if you do.

My mother used to tell me the old saying, "A fool and his money are soon parted." Here's a piece of advice for the guys buying stuff via Bourbon Exchange: Don't. Put your time in. Search for the Pappy on store shelves. Experience the frustration of visiting 30 stores over the weekend after a Pappy release and finding nothing. Then find easily available bottles that YOU like. Better yet, find bottles that YOU like that are under $20. Don't act like bourbon is a status symbol. And goodness gracious, if you are thinking of buying a bottle from Bourbon Exchange, at least do the research to find out if you can still find that bottle on a shelf somewhere!

Blind Sample #6: Maker's 46

Maker's 46 is the "other" product produced by Maker's Mark. It is slightly higher in proof than the regular offering and Maker's inserts French oak staves into the barrel for several months before bottling. The addition of the French oak gives the bourbon a little more depth of flavor.

I famously rated this whiskey 96 in a blind tasting in 2012, so I was interested to see how it came out this time.

Average: 85


Color and nose: Golden with depth and bit of murkiness. The nose is quite sweet dominated by both candy and yellow corn. There are some hints of florals (rose?) among others lurking, but the sweetness drowns anything that attempts to surface.

Taste and finish: The candy and yellow corns continue into the tasting. Some grains bubble up, but I just can’t get a firm grip on them to determine what they are, they, too, being sunk by the sweetness. Not particularly boozy (on the contrary), this whiskey hits the tongue on the forward flanks. The finish is strongly of corn which dissipates into a gentle oakiness.

Overall: After a promising color, I was a quite disappointed with the lack of depth in this whiskey. The corny sweetness tyrannizes any and all potential competing flavors into submission no matter how much they might add to this pour. This one sits at the low end of average: it’s not unpleasant, there’s just not much to it. 80/100.


nose: bright with a little bit of an alcohol punch; almost tropical - berry and coconut

taste: velvety mouth feel that is richer than I would have expected from the aroma; some corn sweetness but not cloying

finish: warm and smooth finish; the sweetness lingers while chocolate cherry and tobacco emerge as well

overall: 92


Nose: Corn stalk and popcorn, peanuts, copper and a whiff of vanilla

Taste: Some barrel flavors, vanilla, cinnamon and some chewiness. There's a thickness to this bourbon.

Finish: Mild heat and spice. Short.

Overall: 83. This is what a bourbon made by committee would taste like. It hits all the notes, but doesn't do any one of them very well. There's some barrel, some sweet, some spice, an interesting nose, and a half-decent mouth feel. It just didn't work very well for me.

Gulliver, Kyle, Jon


Monday, May 13, 2013

CBC Blind Tasting #5, High West Son of Bourye

High West is a "micro-distillery" located in Park City, Utah. They distill their own juice, but Bourye, and it's successor, Son of Bourye is sourced whiskey. Bourye and Son of neat little blending experiments as they are blends of a straight bourbon and a straight rye. According to High West, Son of Bourye is made with a 5 year old bourbon (75% corn/20% rye/5% malted barley) and a 3 year old rye (95% rye/5% malted barley). As a quick aside, I hold High West in high regard for publishing the mash bills and ages of what goes into the bottle.  Too many micros are secretive about that information.

On to the notes (46% ABV):

Average: 80.8


Color and nose: The color consists of a very light brown instead of the typical amber. Drinking from a bourbon tasting glass, it is significantly darker in the bowl than through the meniscus which presents as a pale yellow instead. This looks like a thin whisky. The nose is fruity with cherry and grape leaping to the fore. In their wake come corn (very gently), anise, salty caramel, and rhubarb. This is not a whisky with a high ABV.

Taste and finish: The initial taste is very earthy, mainly a revisit of the corn of the nose with a hint of grass and mint. Lower in alcohol than what I normally prefer, #5 is felt along the longer axis of the tongue albeit mildly. It has lost the fruits of the nose and the caramel has decomposed into a pure sugariness, indicative of an all-too-high wheat content. The finish takes earthiness, crescendos  the mint before collapsing into a fit of dill.

Overall: This thin, simplistic whisky seems to have been in the barrel too long for its own good. It has no depth or complexity. However, it is not unpleasant. Drinkable, yet I would not seek it out nor pay too much for it. I give this whisky a high fair rating: 79/100.


Nose is a orange with a hint of caramel. A very full bodied bourbon. Spicy with nutmeg and cinnamon. There's just a tiny hint of char as well. The finish develops slowly, but becomes very smooth with a nutty aftertaste. I really enjoyed this one. Not quite celebrating fatherhood, but maybe not an every day bourbon either. 90


Nose: sweet; vanilla and lavender

Taste: sweetness is there but nothing new emerges

Finish: far from offensive but this one never really comes together in the end; corn and little bit of oak

Overall: 81


Nose: bright, peppermint

Taste: smooth drinking: almost too easy going down. Would guess this is 80 proof. Little bit of woodiness, some rye spice. No strong, defining flavors.

Finish: short and undistinguished.

Didn't love this: found it to be pretty light and unexceptional. 76/100


Nose: Heavy corn, sweet, sort of funky.

Taste: Soft sweetness, corn some woodiness. No spice. Thin mouth feel and flavor. Just sort of lacking in character.

Finish: Mild sweetness and a funk that sort of hangs around.

Overall: 78. I did not like this whiskey. I took multiple sips trying to find something I liked about it. I failed.

Last words: This did not rate very highly in the group, and I think the reason is pretty obvious. The component whiskies that make up this whiskey are too young. I didn't think the rye was assertive enough as I would not have guessed there was any rye in there.

The four grain whiskey thing is something of a chimera in the bourbon world. Parker's Heritage Collection released a four grain in 2012, and I reviewed it here. I liked it, but I think it falls behind other PHC releases.  Hudson also puts out a Four Grain regularly. Hopefully distilleries like High West will continue to push the issue on new blends and styles of whiskey. While Son of Bourye falls short, this sort of experimentation can only lead to higher quality options for the whiskey consumer.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Blind Tasting #4: Elijah Craig 12

Heaven Hill's Elijah Craig is a small batch bourbon bottled at 12 years old at 84 proof. It's a standard Heaven Hill product--to my knowledge it is the same mash bill that goes into Evan Williams, it just ages longer in Heaven Hill's Bardstown rick houses.

It's a bourbon that is easy enough to find and at 12 years old and around $38, it is a fairly good deal. On to the notes:

Average: 85.5


Nose: very sweet with orange and vanilla; hint of cinnamon

Taste: starts out a little nutty and bitter with some pepper on the tongue

Finish: rounds out nicely to a warm sweet finish; raisin bread

overall: 85

Maybe not for special occasions but this would be an excellent pour to enjoy on any given day.


Nose: sweetness

Taste: burnt sugar, vanilla

Good if unexceptional. Scent of vanilla and nice sweetness. Good heat in finish but not overpowering. Woody finish.



Color and nose: A pale amber color that slightly refracts red light. It looks like a whisky that has a bit of verve and character, but won’t put hair on your chest if taken in voluminous amounts. It has a well-balanced nose of caramel, corn, and charcoal, favoring the caramel slightly.
Taste and finish: Not exceptionally boozy, the initial hit is predominately earthy: corn, grass, soil. It progresses through a bit of leather and oak with a surge of cotton candy and a hint of charcoal before the finish. The finish is elliptic; it’s not noticeably round nor is it pointed. This is mainly due to the latent effect of the alcohol that mildly abrades the back of the tongue as it goes down. The flavor is again full of corn intermixed with tannins.
Overall: While tasting, I thought to myself that this whisky tastes like what a baseball game ought to taste like and I think the analogy is apt. Beyond the elements of its flavor (grass, leather, wood), this is a whisky that takes its time. It doesn’t move fast or much at all. There is a bit of action between the nose and the taste and the finish, but the action is short and not at all violent. This is a pastoral whisky that through its grace is simply pleasing to drink. What more could you ask for? A solid 89.


Nose: Cherries & Fruit, corn sweetness

Taste: Dry. Fruit builds from the front to back. Starts cornstalk and gets fruity. Some spice. Not an assertive bourbon. Mild wood

Finish: Warm tingle, jolly rancher, medium length

Overall: 84, solid but not spectacular. Needs more oomph.

This one has the reputation of varying a great deal from batch to batch. This seemed like a middling batch. As always, your mileage may vary.

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.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Capitol Bourbon Committee Meeting, Preview

This Saturday the Capitol Bourbon Committee will meet to drink, eat, and drink.  The line-up includes 5 Willetts, 3 different private barrel Old Weller Antiques, a Four Roses OBSF and a Four Roses OESK. I'm really looking forward to hanging out with the guys and sharing some damn fine bourbon.

A partial view of what's on tap for Saturday.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gulliver's Debut: George T. Stagg 2012 Tasting Notes

Today in his Capitol Bourbon Committee Blog debut, Gulliver reviews a 2012 bottling of George T. Stagg:

George T. Stagg--A lion of a bourbon.

This is the sort of whiskey that makes me wish I had a more expansive vocabulary. I can count on one hand the others (Jefferson 18, Pappy 15, William Larue Weller, Elijah Craig 18) with similarly complex taste and nose: bourbons that seem to change each time you take a sip.  The Stagg has what I can only describe as a "rounded" scent: the very opposite of acidic or astringent, no alcohol-burn (once you've let it rest a minute), but rather something like polished leather or even a nice, robust cookie dough.  Other times (especially with ice), I get hints of hard candy: not sweet, but raw sugar. 

The taste is more leather, with an alcohol punch that promises happier fourth and fifth sips ahead. Mouth feel is silky and full, which is all the more enjoyable for the fact that you'll want to hold it there for a moment before the finish knocks you on your ass. Oaky without being "woody," which is pejorative in my lexicon. The ice-melt of this whiskey should sell for more than the average bottle. (I know, purists, I know: one of these days I'll grow a pair and drink it straight. Or faster. You enjoy yours, I'll enjoy mine.) I could stay happy for the rest of the night just sniffing the glass this was poured in.
I'm not much for ratings unless I'm tasting things side-by-side, but I'll give this a 90. The bourbons I've named above are the only others that compare, so maybe it should be higher, but I'm gonna tell you a dirty little secret: whiskeys between 95 and 105 proof, stuff I don't have to cut on my own, are always going to come in higher than their barrel-proof alternatives. (I know, the purists are pissed again.)
This is a fantastic bourbon.  If you're going to cut it (which is something I recommend), you should go with water instead of ice to get a consistent flavor throughout the pour.  A slow-melting ice-cube means it'll kick your ass at the beginning and waste your money at the end.  But by all means, drink this whiskey if you can get your hands on it.
Here's some other reviews of GTS:

Bourbon Basement

Sour Mash Manifesto (2010 Bottle)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wheater Wednesday, Parker's Heritage Collection, 2010

Note: Wheater Wednesday is a result of a massive blind wheated bourbon tasting I participated in late in 2012.  All the bourbons reviewed here are publicly available.

Parker's Heritage Collection is a highly sought after annual release from the Heaven Hill distillery.  This release is a 10 year old, 127.8 proof, wheated bourbon.  Unfortunately, I missed on out this one when it was in stores, as I was not turned on to the Heritage Collection until 2011.  This one is very popular among bourbon enthusiasts and if you see one on a shelf, you should buy it.  On to the notes:

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, maple. Some bubble gum and apple notes as well.

Taste: Very similar to the nose, but also quite hot.  A couple of drops of water cooled it down and brought out some corn notes.

Finish: Medium in length, with some spiciness on the back of the tongue.

Overall: 84

The group's average score for this bourbon was 90.2, which is one of the highest average scores the group has ever recorded.  I was certainly the outlier here.  I think the heat turned me off, and with a small sample it is difficult to get the proof just where you like it.  I've had this bourbon since, and I have found subsequent pours very, very good.  I highly recommend this bourbon and wish I had a bottle or two in my bunker.

The bourbon dork also reviewed PHC 2010.