Sunday, November 19, 2017

Old Ezra 101 Review

Old Ezra 7 year is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon released by Luxco. Though the front label says "DISTILLED & AGED IN KENTUCKY BY EZRA BROOKS DISTILLING LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY", don't believe that for one second since there was no Ezra Brooks distillery seven years ago. Most credible sources have this as being sourced from Heaven Hill and like many Heaven Hill bourbons this is also charcoal filtered. Due to some positive reviews I'd read and that it's likely age stated highish proof Heaven Hill bourbon at a low price, I figured it was worth a shot as potential good and cheap daily sipper. 
Before we get into the review though, a curious story. At some point during the few weeks I spent with this bottle, I happened to notice this verbiage on the back label.
"CONTAINS CARAMEL COLOR"
Uh, wut? I do what any enraged whiskey nerd does and make a post in a whiskey group to the effect of can you believe this shit. Visceral rabbling immediately ensues more or less that the TTB is worthless and yeah that's definitely not a KY straight bourbon if coloring has been added, shame on the TTB and Luxco. But then someone asks about the TTB label so I start doing some digging. It took some time but eventually I deduced that there are a lot of flavored products that are put out under the Ezra Brooks line and the TTB label for this product doesn't match the one that's on the back of my bottle. Though I never found an exact match for the SKU, I came to the conclusion that somehow there was a bottling line mishap and one of Ezra Brook's other back labels like this one ended up on my bottle. 
Crisis averted, pitchforks lowered, bourbon can again be consumed at ease.
bottle
Aged 7 years; 50.5% ABV; $20
Nose: Rye menthol spice, decent amount of oak, about the level of caramel/vanilla sweets you'd expect for a 7 year old bourbon. 
Taste: Typical caramel/vanilla/honey sweets you get in a middle aged bourbon. It's rather forward on the sweets in the front and middle palate, much like creme brûlée. The finish has a good bit of rye spiciness that's inline with Heaven Hill's standard rye bourbon mash products. 
Thoughts: Pretty decent and above what I consider an average of something like Maker's Mark. Given the price, it's a good deal and that makes it a good candidate for a good daily driver. For day to day sipping, I think this is easy and pleasant to drink as it's a nice classic bourbon. Having said that, I don't know if it's as good as my current gold standard for a universally versatile daily bourbon which is Wild Turkey 101. This bottle is probably more refined than WT101 with a higher overall age but it's hard to for me to say this is better than the bold, spice forward profile that WT101 brings to the table even if it drinks a little younger.
Rating: C+ / B-
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Maker's Mark Private Select Gift Shop 2017 Review

I recently took a trip from Nashville up to Louisville and decided to slightly detour over to Loretto because they currently have a Dale Chihuly exhibit on the grounds. Maker's Mark is my favorite tour in Kentucky, mainly because the grounds are so well catered to visitors and I picked the perfect time of year because the Fall colors were peaking (pictures). As part of the tour you get to taste a private select chosen by the Maker's Mark staff. I personally hate Maker's 46 (review) and didn't much care for the very first gift shop only cask strength version they released (review) but I was surprised by the one I tasted on the tour. I liked it enough that my vacation mode wallet was okay with forking over the somewhat steep asking price. For reference, the staves on this are 2x Baked American Pure 2, 2x Seared French Cuvée, 2x Maker's 46, and 4x Roasted French Mocha.
bottle
No Age Statement; 55.1% ABV; $80
Nose: Cinnamon red hot candies, dark cocoa, some corn funk, and quite a bit of ethanol. It has the wood influence you'd expect from a ~6 year old bourbon.
Taste: More corn than the nose but the odd funk is gone. The mid and back palate are a wave of spicy cinnamon red hot candies. The wood depth is pretty nice with the different stave chars adding some nice complexity. There are hints of the green wood / pine note that make me completely hate the regular Maker's 46 but it seems to be getting masked by chocolate cocoa notes rather well. The ethanol influence is a lot more settled than the nose and though it might be amplifying the spice notes, the increased proof seems to be ramping up all the nice flavors rather than just cranking up the heat. 
Thoughts: Given my previous experience with Maker's 46 and the original Maker's 46 cask strength, I was really surprised how much I like this. Granted, it's a low bar but I think this is the best Maker's product I've ever had. It tastes more full than the standard Maker's thanks to the proof and more mature than the cask strength version which I think is good but is slanted towards a younger profile. It's a nice blend of cinnamon, corn, and dark chocolate notes with a good amount of proof to back it up. The only real downside here is the asking price is kinda high but what isn't in the world of bourbon these days.
Rating: B
For reference, on my current scale, Maker's CS would be about a B-, standard Maker's a C, and most modern single barrel Old Weller Antiques would be in the B- to B range.
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon Review

Bulleit is a non distiller producer who sources Kentucky bourbon and Indiana rye. The current producer of their bourbon is unknown but up until a couple of years ago, Four Roses was the primary contract distiller. There's a lot of theories about the makeup of their bourbon currently on the shelves - some have it being from a different yeast than one of Four Roses five strains (an E yeast) and some have it as just a blend of Four Roses OE and OB mashes. My guess is it's probably both of those but the wildcard element is it's also possible that Bulleit was sourcing from other distilleries and blending for the final product so nobody really knows but Diageo. All we know is it's a Kentucky straight bourbon with a high rye mashbill. 
bottle

Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon

Aged 10 years; 45.6% ABV; $38
Nose: Cotton candy, red fruit sweets, some rye spice bite. It breathes hotter than I would expect for about 90 proof but a pretty decent nose.
Taste: Caramel, red fruits, a little banana, honey, and a pretty good dose of oak. It's definitely high rye as there are some cinnamon and baking spices too. It's a little watery for my tastes though I think my pendulum has swung back into the barrel proof camp lately.
Thoughts: This isn't bad at all. It's got some Four Roses like characteristics, plenty of wood depth, and is priced reasonably well. It drinks like a good daily sipper though it would be a lot better at 100 proof as my main complaint is it's a bit thin. For my money, Four Roses single barrel is still a better product and leads me back to what I always think when I drink Bulleit is that it should just be called "Three Roses".
Rating: C+ / B-
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Bourbon Drinker's Take on Armagnac, Part 4: The L’Encantada Edition. 1974 Le Sable, 1996 Lous Pibous #187, 1996 Lous Pibous #188, and 1993 Lous Pibous #124 Reviews

A recap for those that missed part 1, part 2, and part 3: I'm well versed in the world of bourbon but have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to Armagnac. What follows are some raw notes from Armagnacs I've tried lately. While most of the ones I've tried up to this point were tasted with zero knowledge of backstory or supposed quality, I had actually heard really good things about L’Encantada and was aware some folks I know were involved in selecting the "Lous Pibous" casks. 

bottle

L’Encantada 1974 42 year “Le Sable” Bas Armagnac, 40.1%

Smells like a really old, super sweet, funky grapey whiskey. Lots of brown sugar and prunes. The taste is a lot more of the same. Old funky burnt caramel, honey, and brown sugar covered raisins. There is some drying wood as well but it's a lot of sweet and purple fruits. I really like that profile personally as I am sweets junkie. My only complaint is with the lowish proof the flavors that are there are a little thin. Rating: B
bottle

L'Encantada "Lous Pibous" 1996 20 year Bas Armagnac #188 53.6%

The nose is classic flavors of brown sugar and raisins. It is very sweet forward and packs quite a wallop given the high ABV. The taste is a lot more of the same: honey, sweet brown sugar, raisins, and dark cocoa. There is also some spice bite that I am not sure if is really a spice note or just the ethanol from the high ABV. The first time I had this it really threw me off as I'd never had an Armagnac at this high ABV. Over time it has really grown on me as I know what to expect going in plus I think it has mellowed out a bit as it's been exposed to air in the bottle. It's definitely a bruiser of a dram for an Armagnac but I am a big fan of how intense it is. Rating: A-

L'Encantada "Lous Pibous" 1996 Bas Armagnac 20 year Barrel #187 54.9%

Drinks easy for 57% but flavor-wise it's very impactful with lots of rich grape, wood, and brown sugar. It's a sweet forward sugar coated raisin bomb up front with some spicy tingle on the finish, mostly likely from the highish proof. A classic middle to upper aged Armagnac profile. While not as bold as my memory of the 188, it's still damn good. These high proof older Armagnacs are really something else. Rating: A

L'Encantada "Lous Pibous" Bas Armagnac 1993 23 year Barrel #124 52.5%

Another grapey, woody, sweet, sugar coated raisin bomb. This one doesn't pack quite the wallop of the 187 or 188 and that's not surprising given the proof. While I enjoy these high proof bruisers I actually feel kind of weird about them as I think the proof detracts from them a little bit. To me, this one drinks closer to the easy drinking but super rich and sweet profile I prefer with some weird funky old flavors. Brown sugar, funky old grapes, old wood, and a hefty proof but not so much that you burn your palate. Those notes are there in the 188 and 187 but they are just a tad too hot such that the funkier elements get a little lost. This one is the nicest balance of proof towards weirdo flavors I've found. Simply wonderful. Rating: A / A+

Thoughts: These L'Encantadas are definitely the best Armagnacs I've ever had. As a bourbon guy who has tried some heavily hyped and rare whiskies, I'll go so far as say these up there with the best spirits I've ever tasted. Maybe this just the novelty of a new spirit for me but I find the crave-ability aspect of these off the charts. I find myself thinking about these profiles far more than most bourbons I have on my shelf today. 
But now some real talk. I started this adventure because on the surface, Armagnac looked like a market with great values and easier access than the shitstorm that is allocated bourbon these days. Well, so much for that. The three amazing barrels I reviewed here today were all part of some private group picks with only a few bottles making their way to retail at K&L and even then I believe it was only one of the casks. While they were priced at retail well, the secret is out and there's now a secondary fever for them that is approaching the ridiculousness that is allocated bourbon so don't plan on finding these. I have no idea if there will ever be more of them in the future but expect a crazed rat race if that happens. Granted, there are plenty of options other than private L'Encantada casks out there but the other major hinderance I've found is shipping. K&L is largely one of the best sources for great Armagnac but now they no longer ship outside of California. There are a few stores in New York that have some great selections but the list of states they ship to is pretty small and excludes my state. My local distributors do carry a few selections but most things older than 10 years end up retailing nearly double what K&L charges.
Get into Armagnac they said. It will be easy they said. It's cheap they said. Huh, yeah, cool story bro. 
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Bourbon Drinker's Take on Armagnac, Part 3. Domaine de Jean-Bon 28yr, Chateau de la Grangerie 2001 14yr, Domaine de Baraillon 1988 28yr, Baraillon 1987 29yr

A recap for those that missed part 1 and part 2: I'm well versed in the world of bourbon but have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to Armagnac. What follows are some raw notes from Armagnacs I've tried lately - some were samples, some where bottle splits, and most were drank with zero knowledge of backstory or supposed quality. 
bottle

Domaine de Baraillon 1988 28 year Folle Blanche, 46%

The nose is very nice - I can already tell this is in my wheelhouse. It smells old and kinda funky but in a great way. Dark sugars, smoked meats, leather. The taste is more of those same notes with a lot of added caramel sweetness. Dark sugar soaked dates, plums, old oak, wood varnish. It's rich and complex with a wide range of sweets, oak depth, and oddball funk notes. This probably isn't for everyone but I love it. Rating: B+
bottle

Baraillon 1987 29 year 43%

The nose and taste are lots of classic old Armagnac flavors that you'd expect in this age range but a bit more oak forward. The oak slightly overpowers some of the rich sugary date/grape/raisin flavors I tend towards. It's also slightly spicy, perhaps it's wood spice? It's easy to drink and not as thin as expected for 43%. Overall, it's pretty great but loses points for being almost over-oaked and not as deep in sweet flavors as my favorites.  Rating: B
bottle

Chateau de la Grangerie 2001 14 year K&L Exclusive Armagnac, 45%

Initial getting a familiar but surprising flavor - it’s some kind of fruit or berry. Something tropical perhaps? It drinks pretty warm and is hotter than I expected for 45% but not in a bad way - the heat is pretty nice actually. The finish lasts quite a while. It’s not as wood heavy as I prefer but it is tasty. I did get a slightly soapy note in the finish, I have to wonder if that was the sample bottle. The distinct fruit note here is driving me insane trying to place it. I want to say it’s more like some kind of grape candy or NuGrape soda now. I’d love this one more if it had more wood depth as it’s a little light on the hyper aged Armagnac profile that I gravitate towards.  Rating: C+ / B-
bottle

1987 Domaine de Jean-Bon 28 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac, 45%

The nose is fortified grapey wine notes, a bit of leather, and a spice note that is familiar but I can’t quite place. It smells fruity and sweet but somewhat thin for 45%. The taste is a lot more of the same. There are some light brown sugar notes and some wood depth but it’s really missing those old rich brown sugar raisin flavors I want. The finish is a little tannic and bitter without a lot of sweetness coming through. The alcohol presence also seems a little forward, almost like a younger craft whiskey. Considering the age and proof I expected a lot more. Rating: C+ / B-
This bottle came from a 3 bottle split I did. The other two were 1974 Domaine de Jean-Bon 41 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac and 1981 Domaine du Cardinat 34 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac. Unfortunately I didn't write down my notes on those two other than a letter grade but I had the 1974 Jean-Bon somewhere in the B range and the 1981 Cardinat in the A- to A range. The Cardinat remains one of my favorite Armagnacs to this day.

Thoughts: After a rough showing with apple and pear brandies last time around, these were a welcome change. Up next in the final installment, I saved the best for last as I'll run through four different L'Encantadas. 
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Bourbon Drinker's Take on Armagnac, Part 2. Domaine Pacory 15yr Calvados, Adrien Camut 18yr Calvados, Tom Foolery Bottled in Bond Applejack, and Chateau de Pellehaut 15yr 2001 Armagnac

A recap for those that missed part 1 - I'm well versed in the world of bourbon but have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to Armagnac. All of what follows were samples sent to me by kind friends as I try to explore the world of Armagnac and in doing so ended up with some other brandies as well. To keep things honest, I didn't do any research on any of them so what follows are raw tasting notes.

Domaine Pacory 15 year K&L Exclusive Domfrontais Calvados, 42%
I have no idea what Calvados is. First taste was very rough, lots of fruit but lots of rough bitter notes and none of the sweet forward notes I love in bourbon or Armagnac. Second taste is more of the same only now I’ve read the word pear on the sample label. Pears! Yes, definitely pears rather than apple. Getting some rough raw young wood notes or old bitter wood notes, I don’t know but the wood influence just seems off. A few sips later things are starting to level off, the odd wood notes are going away, finally getting some baked pears and sweetness but it’s dry in the end. There’s something in the finish I just don’t like about this, it doesn’t taste like anything familiar. It’s not something I would want to drink again and really didn’t want to finish the sample. Rating: D

Tom Foolery Bottled in Bond Applejack, 50%

I have no idea what Applejack means but the bottled in bond gives me some hope. The nose and taste are overwhelming apples. There are also some vitamin mineral notes very reminiscent of George Dickel though not nearly as forward as in Dickel. I'm also getting some punchy spice which I didn't expect - not sure if that's just the higher proof, the cooperage, or if the distillate actually imparted that. The apple notes are a bit much for me as they dominate the nose, taste, and finish but at least this has some good body and the spice component was welcome. Rating: C

Adrien Camut 18 year Privilege Calvados Pays d'Auge, 41%

The nose smells like stewed apples or pears, reminiscent of the spiced baked apples Cracker Barrel serves. The taste is exactly like the nose - warm spiced baked apples. The apple notes are pretty bright and it’s crazy sweet. I'm not sure if it's wood sweets or fruit sweets but overwhelmingly so. Definitely not as wood forward or old rancio as I seem to prefer. There is not much negative that I can find other than being one dimensional towards apple sweets and kinda thin. This one just seems kind boring and middle of the road but it is easy to drink. Rating: C-

Chateau de Pellehaut 2001 15 year Tenareze Armagnac, 43%

Tasting this after the apple and pear brandies, we’re back in a good place here. Tastes like a moderately aged, nice, Armagnac. It's not overly woody, not overly loaded with rancio flavors, just nice strong grape alcohol notes like brown sugar coated raisins. My only complaint is it’s a little thin and dull with fruity brown sugar sweetness being the one trick pony. Rating: B- / C+

Thoughts: I think it is safe to say I do not like apple or pear distillate so when it comes to brandy it's grapes or bust for me. Next up in the series we'll get back on the Armagnac train with some K&L exclusives and a couple Domaine de Baraillon.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Bourbon Drinker's Take on a Few Armagnacs, Part 1. Delord 25, Chateau De Laubade XO, Darroze 20, Darroze 1986, and Chateau de Pellehaut 1989

I've been trying to branch out into other spirits for a while now, mostly because the demand for bourbon and rye is so crazy that special bottles are pretty hard to find and/or priced out of my comfort zone. Prompted by reviews by retired blogger Sku and others on the reddit whiskey network, Armagnac seemed like one of the last bastions where you could get good deals on exceptional bottles so I ran with it. The disclaimer here is though I've had a lot of bourbon, I know very little about Armagnac. What I noticed in trying to research Armagnac is there just aren't a lot of reviews out there apart from K&L which I take with a grain of salt since they are in the business of selling product. In light of that, I thought it would be worthwhile to share a seasoned bourbon drinker's take on exploring this spirit. Most of these are just free-form notes, some were from bottles, a lot were from samples. For the record, I'm also a bit of a proof whore so sub 90 proof spirits aren't something I drink very often. 

Delord 25 Year Old Bas-Armagnac 40%

The nose is grapey with some dark cocoa powder sweetness. It’s a little thin as you would expect for 40% but it’s got some menthol spice tingle. The taste is caramel sweet grapes and actually pretty rich for the proof. The finish lingers with woody grapes and some cocoa powder. There’s a good amount of wood influence here and there are hints of those old hyper aged Armagnac notes that I crave but overall I don’t think it tastes as old as other Armagnacs I’ve had this age or younger. 
This was the first Armagnac I ever tried at the recommendation of my local shop and this was the bottle that won me over that Armagnac was a spirit I need to explore. Today I consider it my baseline of good as it is easy to drink, has a lot of woody grape flavors, is well price for the age, and easily accessible even in markets that have terrible availability (like my own). Rating: C+

Château De Laubade XO Armagnac 40%

Grape forward, light, thin. Tastes like a younger, typical Armagnac. Not quite on par with Delord 25, probably a little more fruity grape forward and less sweet brown sugar or wood influence. Rating: C-

Darroze 1986 Domaine de Barigos Bas-Armagnac, 47.8%

Very nice balance of sweet and bitter. Tastes rather old and a bit funky. I’ve had better but this is in the right wheelhouse with those classic old Armagnac flavors which I assume are what everyone reviews to as rancio. To me that's old wood tannins, sugary dried raisins, and darker sweet vibes like cocoa. A good, classic, hyper-aged Armagnac. Rating: B

Darroze Les Grands Assemblages 20 year Bas-Armagnac 43%

The nose is very sweet with sugary raisin notes. Also getting a little spice, like what you might pick up in a low rye bourbon. The palate is a lot more of the same - it’s mostly honey and sugary raisin notes with a medium amount of wood influence and some of that aforementioned spice. It's more fruit forward than the other Darroze but in the right wheelhouse. The finish lingers for a bit with honey and a bit of dry woodiness. The proof bump there adds some depth and gives this an advantage over my baseline of Delord 25 - I think this is quite a bit better than that. Overall, it tastes exactly like what you would expect from a moderately long aged slightly up-proofed Armagnac. Rating: B-

Chateau de Pellehaut 1989 27 year Ténarèze Ugni Blanc Armagnac 49.9%

Disclaimer: I have no idea what Ténarèze Ugni Blanc means and I'm not going to spoil anything by looking it up first. The nose is very fruity with a peaches and pears vibe more than grapes or plums. The mouthfeel and taste are very bourbon like with lots of woody sweet flavors and some fruity peaches/pears. There are some classic brown sugar raisin notes in there but they take a backseat to more traditional whiskey notes. This drinks more like a bourbon than an Armagnac as it's more wood and wood sugars than grape and grape sugars. It's almost like I took some EHT single barrel and mixed it with an old Armagnac. Dangerously easy to drink for 50%. I've never had anything like this and like it a lot. Rating: B+

Thoughts: I'm well aware there's a trend where my ratings go up as the proof goes up but that should correct itself a little in upcoming reviews. Up next in part 2 I will branch out beyond Armagnac and try some Calvados brandies. Spoiler alert, I seem to be more partial to corn and grapes than apples.
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Four Roses Small Batch 2017 Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Review

Four Roses is by far my favorite distillery so I was super excited when it was announced they would be releasing a limited edition to commemorate brand ambassador Al Young’s 50 years with the organization. Not only did I love the retro look of the bottle but they appeared to have spared no expensive with the specs as there are some really old bourbons in the blend from recipes that are well loved.
Before going to head over heels though, there’s a reality check that needs to happen. Though I’ve never had a Four Roses Limited Edition that wasn’t good, there have been one or two that I thought were topped by some of the better private selections I’ve had. I think that’s more of a compliment to the high ceiling of quality in private selections than a knock against Four Roses LEs. 
bottle
12 year OBSF, 15 year OBSK, 23 year OBSV, 13 year OESV; 53.8% ABV; $150
Nose: I can taste/smell Four Roses bourbons a mile away and this smells like quintessential Four Roses. Caramel, honey, red fruits, cinnamon, and mint spice. All of this backed up by quite a bit of wood influence and minimal ethanol burn. It smells very, very nice. 
Taste: Taste is more of the same from the nose and again very classic Four Roses bourbon flavors. Caramel cinnamon covered apples and cherries. The wood influence is a lot more noticeable now, almost a bit too much oak as it is a little drying in the finish. Burnt sugars, red fruits, tingly spice, and dark cocoa linger in the finish on top of a whole mess of wood. 
Thoughts: It’s a very good, balanced, surprisingly easy to drink bourbon that has all the great Four Roses tasting notes I crave. Having said that, after quite a few sessions with this, I’m always left wishing it was more impactful. All that wood influence and the lowish proof for a typical barrel strength Four Roses product gives it a rather mellow profile, almost to a fault. If you like more subtle, intricate, nuanced bourbons, then this would be a home run for you. For me, I’m a private selection OESK man through and through and I have quite a few of them in my stash that I’d reach for before this. The kicker here is those were about 1/3 of the price.
Rating: B+
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Willett 80th Anniversary Bourbon Review

The history of Willett in TLDR form: 
  • get mega hype hype hype famous selling old whiskey sourced from long defunct distilleries
  • start distilling your own product
  • release very young in house products (hey baby, here's just the tip)
  • watch people go crazy for it based on the reputation of sourced whiskey
  • $$$$$$$
That sounds pretty bitter and well, that's because it is but I've seen enough crotch shots of Willett 2 and 3 year rye to know there are lots of people that think landing any Willett product is a major score. 
Honestly, I like Willett and I feel like their stuff will be pretty good one day soon because most of what they are putting out now shows promise. I'm just tired of the hype machine around them because thus far the only in house products are pretty young so there's a low ceiling on how good they can be. So along those lines, here is another such product that was released at the gift shop back in March of this year. Apparently it is set for national distribution which has already started and will be limited to 5200 bottles.
bottle
No Age Statement; Bottled in Bond; 50% ABV; $35; thanks to /u/_glab for the gift
Nose: Very sweet. Some grainy corn, lots of wood sweets, cinnamon, and a bit of new make ethanol.
Taste: Corn grain, lots and lots of cinnamon, a little earthy dirt funk, and your typical vanilla caramel sweets. There's as much wood influence as you'd expect for a 4ish year old Kentucky bourbon but not enough to cover up all the rough ethanol notes. The finish is a lot of dirty, dusty, dry cinnamon. I don't know what that dirt funk note is but I often get that in other micro/craft distilleries like Garrison Brothers and this reminds me of their bourbon. This is the first time I recall tasting that in any Willett product.
Thoughts: I don't like it. It's not horrid but it's not as good as the Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond Willett put out earlier this year. As expected, it's a youngish, corn forward bourbon but there's some sharp off/craft notes here that are ruining things. The dry cinnamon note is really odd to me and so overbearing there were sessions where it was all I could taste. Given my impression, I was completely shocked when someone told me people are paying $200 on the secondary for this. What the fuck is wrong with you people? Get off my god damn lawn.
Note: In all fairness, I might be a crotchety old man. For a contrasting opinion, Liquor Hound gave this a much better review.
Rating: D+
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (116.8) Review

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Wild Turkey. Russell's Reserve Single Barrel is one of the best regularly available premium bourbons and Wild Turkey 101 is a workhorse both as a daily sipper and a great cocktail base. But then there are products like Rare Breed which on paper sound amazing - a barrel proof bourbon that according to marketing and the Russells is a blend of 6, 8, and 12 year old bourbon. The problem though is the last batch at 112.8 introduced in 2014 tasted like there might be a drop of older whiskeys in the blend as it leaned heavily towards 6 years old. A young, corny, fruity forward vibe dominates the taste and is a far cry from the rich, layered elegance you'll find in the older batches like 108.4 (WT-01-99).
So here we are in 2017 and Wild Turkey has released a new batch, identifiable by a proof of 116.8. I have heard comments ranging from it being a step back in the right direction all the way to night and day better than the previous iteration. Call my a cynic but I'm going into this assuming that it's not going to be much different from the last one. For comparison sake, I tasted this new batch against old one over a period of about a month. 
bottle
No Age Statement; 58.4% ABV; $50
Nose: There's a nice base of vanilla caramel sweets but also a lot of heat trying to keep it pinned down. The fusel ethanol notes are a bit rough. Fruity new make notes like apples and pears are noticeable which suggests a younger profile. That familiar Wild Turkey baking spice note is there along with some zippy menthol. Overall, not that noticeably different from the last batch.
Taste: More sweet forward with more wood depth than the nose - I think that's because the ethanol isn't so front and center. Fruity, grainy, corny notes are certainly present though and are as noticeable as the oak influence. It's a mashup of light honey sweets, darker burnt caramel sugars, corn grain, and baking spices.
Thoughts: I don't love it but I don't hate it which is where I stand with the previous iteration. It's slightly richer with a little more oak depth than the previous one so I'd tepidly give this a vote of a small step in the right direction. Overall, it still tastes more like barrel proof WT 101 which is a blend of 6-8 years rather than a blend of 6, 8, and 12 year old product. At $50 a bottle, I'll pass on buying this in the future and stick to regular old 101 at half the cost and equal enjoyment.
Rating: C+
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.