Wednesday, July 15, 2020

George Dickel Bottled in Bond 11 Year Review

A little over a year ago I reviewed the first release of George Dickel Bottled in Bond. The TL;DR was I pretty much hated it. I found it overly thin and remarkably underwhelming given the age and proof. While Dickel tends to be a very polarizing whiskey, this surprised me greatly because I generally quite enjoy it as a nice change of pace from most other bourbons. While there were some that liked the bottled in bond release, I think overall the whiskey community mostly sided with me as there was a considerable amount of groaning when the product won one of those silly whiskey of the year awards. 

Fast forward one year and here we are with a second release of this product, distilled 3 years later in Fall of 2008 but now bearing an official age statement of 11 years. I wasn't quite ready to give up on Dickel so when I saw a bottle on the shelf with a price that is still relatively cheap by current special release standards, I figured I'd take a chance given the lack of anything better to do right now.

bottle

Tennessee Whiskey distilled in Fall 2008; Aged 11 years; 50% ABV; $40

Nose: Toasted marshmallow, light spice bite, a decent helping of traditional Dickel Flintstone multivitamins, and lots of woody charred corn.

Taste: Thicker mouthfeel than I remember from last time. Upfront it's honey and other sweet woody flavors which transitions into some slight spice and that familiar vitamin mineral note. The finish is a nicely rounded combo of sweet, spice, and wood but it tapers off too quickly.

Thoughts: I came into this thinking at worst it would be as thin and underwhelming as last time or at best it would be like a really great Dickel store pick. All in all, I think this is somewhere in the upper middle of that which is what I expected from the original release. There is a much better balance of sweet, oak, and char this time around making it just an overall better whiskey. My biggest complaint is still that the finish is entirely too short which again I suspect is due to an abundance of filtration. Outside of that, this is decidedly Dickel whiskey through and through and much closer to form of what I expect from the brand. If I see again, I will buy it.

Rating: B-

Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Old Forester Rye Review

Here lately Old Forester seems to be a brand that is on the rise. While I don't see them ever getting the same kind of silly overhyped attention as a distillery like Buffalo Trace, they have had a steady trend of well received releases that seem to be produced with enthusiasts in mind. As a whole, I generally like their products - Signature is decent for the price, 1910 was an interesting change of pace, and 1920 is a terrific all around bourbon that I regularly buy at least a few times a year. They really only have one product I don't care for and that is the limited edition Birthday Bourbon. After trying at least a dozen vintages, I've given up on ever liking it as all I ever taste is bitter acetone. 

So here today we have another newish product released by them in early 2019 in the form of a rye whiskey. It didn't take long for it to start generating a good bit of low level praise, so based on that and the other positive trends I was seeing for Old Forester releases I figured it was worth picking up. While there is no age statement, 100 proof is very modest and there wasn't much risk considering the low asking price. Also of note is the rather unusual mashbill here: 65% rye, 20% barley, 15% corn. That's a little bit higher rye than your typical barely legal 51% Kentucky ryes but the more interesting part is the large percentage of barley which may lend to some cereal note characteristics.

bottle

Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey; No Age Statement; 50% ABV; $25

Nose: Zesty rye notes like pine, clove, and eucalyptus. Some light florals and a sweetness that has minty bubblegum coming to mind. Definitely breathes like a highish rye influenced whiskey. There is a decent amount of oaky wood influence here and not a lot of overpowering grainy new make notes.

Taste: Upfront starts with your typical woody sweets which then transitions into a rye prominence of baking spices/clove. In the finish the wood sweets transform into a darker cocoa vibe and the spice remains though it's not overpowering. Throughout all are the tell-tale banana notes that I get in every Brown Forman whiskey I've ever had which at this point I think has to be due to their yeast. It drinks pretty easy for 100 proof. I would guess this is a little older than the bare minimum of four years for no age statement, maybe 6ish years.

Thoughts: I like this. It's not going to blow you away as an intensely spicy rye nor is the the most nuanced whiskey but it's good as an affordable daily sipper and it works really well in cocktails. For the longest time Rittenhouse was my cocktail rye of choice back when it was still being contract distilled at Brown Forman but these days the Heaven Hill version tastes young and green/earthy to me. This product is considerably better than that and as a bonus, it's cheaper. Hats off to Old Forester for knocking another one out of the park.

Rating: B-/C+

Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Bulleit 12 Year Rye Review

bottle

Straight Rye Whiskey Distilled in Indiana; Aged 12 years; 46% ABV; $55

Nose: Rye spice in the form of spearmint and menthol. It definitely has the spice backbone of a 95% rye mash. There are also some doughy notes like rye bread as well as some faint musty wood. It breathes really easy and overall the nose is rather light which I would attribute to the modest 92 proof. 

Taste: Mostly all wood and spice. The spice isn't quite as evident as in the nose and there is quite a bit of barrel influence. I wouldn't necessarily call it bitter but it's pretty lacking in any kind of prominent sweets. Beyond that, there are traces of the infamous pickle flavor MGP ryes can exhibit and here it's a bit like barrel aged gherkins which is as displeasing as it sounds.

Thoughts: I didn't like this when I opened it nor do I like it now. Maybe I am spoiled by the days of cheaper highish aged cask strength MGP rye but proof aside, profile wise this is nothing like any of those. There is a woody, sweet, and spicy balance in all of those that I love but this is just spice and borderline bitterness. I can't imagine it's just the proof that would make that much difference so I am at a loss as to why I do not like this.

Rating: D+

Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Wild Turkey Cornerstone Review

Wild Turkey Cornerstone, the fourth whiskey released by Wild Turkey in the United States as part of their Master's Keep series. This time around we get a high proof rye, batched from barrels aged nine to eleven years. As someone who has tasted Wild Turkey rye at the 9+ year old mark straight from the barrel on several occasions, I was excited to see them release a rye with these stats. At the same time though I was very grouchy about the fact that it would be such a high priced offering and initially convinced myself I wasn't interested. My sensibilities went out the window one random day though when I walked into a store and saw a lone bottle of this on the shelf. In a rare moment of taterism, I caved and bought it so here we are. 
bottle
Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey; Aged at least 9 years; 54.5% ABV, $180
Nose: The nose is a bit flat - some doughy rye bread, maybe a little zesty citrus, and then your typical American whiskey sweet notes (vanilla, caramel, etc). If I really reach I can barely tell it is a rye with some spicy zip but there's really not a lot of character. I will say this bottle has been open for quite some time so I think the nose is slightly oxidized.
Taste: Much better than the nose. The mouthfeel is full and there a good amount of classic bourbony sweet notes here. There are some light citrus fruits, maybe tangerine? Towards the finish there are some spicy rye spearmint and clove along with decent oaky notes. Again the rye notes seem to be taking a back seat - If I had this blind I'd probably guess it was a high rye bourbon. 
Thoughts: This is pretty decent, bordering on good though like most other Kentucky straight ryes it's not going to blow you away with spice notes. I shared the last of this bottle with another member of my bourbon club and while she liked it she commented it's not really a rye drinker's rye. As someone who also particularly enjoys high proof Alberta and MGP ryes that comment certainly resonates with me. Overall, I don't think this is that much better than the Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Rye you can buy off the shelf today. A few years ago I probably wouldn't have said that but lately I think that product tastes more mature and that comment is a testament to how good it is now. Given that comparison it's hard for me to feel anything beyond meh about this release despite the fact that it's actually pretty good whiskey.
Rating: B/B-
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

New Riff /r/bourbon Single Barrel Review

This is a bourbon I am reviewing as part of the /r/bourbon community review series. While I am moderator of that forum, I did not participate in the selection of this single barrel.
Things sure have changed a lot in the last ten years of American whiskey. I remember a time not too long ago when enthusiasts were all joking we would be seeing tons of shuttered "distilleries" once the craft whiskey glut hit. Yet here we are in 2020 where I go into my local and I don't even know what half the shit on the bourbon shelf is. While I am sure some of these upstart "distilleries" are putting out decent stuff, a lot new products are just bad. 
Despite the abundance of crap craft whiskey out there today, one new distiller that has been garnering a better reputation is New Riff out of Newport Kentucky. They hit the ground running with their sourced OKI products and that reputation carried over into their own products which starting coming out at the barely no age statement mark (four years old) last year. Having experienced a lot of hype in previous non distiller producers that never translated into produced product (I'm looking at you, Smooth Ambler), I was cautiously optimistic.
bottle
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Aged 4 years; 55.5% ABV, $57
Nose: Nice, classic, young to middle aged bourbon scents: caramel, vanilla, toasted marshmallow, and light fruits such as pears. In a way the nose reminds me of EHT Taylor Small Batch.
Taste: More of the same from the nose with more wood influence plus some honey and slight rye spice bite in the finish. There is a considerable amount of wood depth for this being only a few days over four years old. Also notable is the lack of overbearing grainy new make notes that you usually find in bourbons this age. It's surprisingly robust and drinks older than it should. Heat is well balanced for the proof and the mouthfeel is as thick or slightly thicker than you'd expect for a 111 proof bourbon.
Thoughts: This was my first experience with New Riff and I'm really impressed. Granted, this is a single barrel so quality may vary but this is one of the better / best four year old bourbons I've had in a long time. The ceiling is only so high for a whiskey of these stats and it's ultimately limited by the age but all in all I've had older, more expensive bourbons from well established distilleries that were not as good as this.
Rating: B- (82/100)
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

1990 Wild Turkey Cheesy Gold Foil Review

Not much to say that hasn't already been said, this is the much revered jewel of the dusty turkey lineup. I pull out a bottle of special turkey every year on Thanksgiving and this one was nearly empty so what better way to polish it off than with a holiday review. Shout out to pappy gift cards and /r/scotchswap (RIP) for making this possible.

bottle

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Aged 12 years; 50.5% ABV
Nose: All the classic bourbon flavors but in highly decadent forms - butterscotch cream, caramel syrup, vanilla cake frosting, and a touch of baking spices. A wonderful well rounded nose. It's woody but the wood is heavy handed towards the sweet side which is just the way I like it.
Taste: All of the same from the nose - it tastes like super condensed bourbon. This is a common theme I find in great dusty bourbons like this, it's like someone figured out how to make a bourbon reduction. The sweets, the wood, the spice, it all just has more pop than anything you can buy off the shelf today.
Thoughts: This is a master class bourbon and I think deserved of the reputation as the pinnacle of Wild Turkey whiskeys. This isn't the first time I've reviewed Cheesy Gold Foil and I was a bit more critical the last time I covered it but here today, drinking the last dram out of this bottle, it's everything I could ask for in a bourbon.
Rating: A
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Bulleit Bourbon Review

bottle

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; No Age Statement; 45% ABV; $17 (375ml)
Nose: Smells like a typical middle aged bourbon only with a jolt of extra spice. A little bit of wood, a little bit of sweet, and a lot of menthol/eucalyptus/cinnamon notes. Overall it's a bit thin on aromas with the hot spiciness being the major player.
Taste: The palate is some honey and sugary sweets. Again, not a ton of wood influence, about what you'd expect for 6-7ish years old. Like the nose the finish brings in a wallop of spicy notes. Peppermint comes to mind as the predominant flavor. Most of the flavors fad rather fast minus that spicy note and on the whole I find it rather thin on taste.
Thoughts: I can't take credit for this but a better name for this "Three Roses". Bulleit's contract distilling relationship with Four Roses ended a few years ago and while there's no telling what Kentucky distilleries this came from, there's a good chance that given the age here this was likely still made by Four Roses. I keep bringing this up because time and time remains when I taste a Bulleit bourbon I can't help but think it tastes like an inferior version of a Four Roses product. Having said that, it's a perfectly okay and serviceable bourbon; one that I won't complain about falling back upon due the lack of better choices. And that's about the only great thing this has going for it - no matter where I am, I can usually count on this being behind the bar.
Rating: C-
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Four Roses Small Batch Select Review

Here today is Four Roses first new product in 12 years. It is a blend of V, K, and F yeasts across both their high rye and higher rye mashbills. As a Four Roses fanboy who loves the K and V recipes and has had some success with F, I was personally very excited for this product. Four Roses Single Barrel is one of my rotating daily drivers and though the price here would prevent it from working its way into daily rotation, I have high expectations this will be a quality product worthy of the occasional splurge purchase.
bottle
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Aged 6-7 years; 52% ABV; Non-chill Filtered; $60
Nose: Caramel, red fruits, and a good amount of sugary oak. I say this over and over again but to me the classic Four Roses calling card is caramel covered red fruits, like candy red apples. The nose here has that in droves. There is also a bit of sugary sweet cinnamon spice like big red gum which I would attribute to OBSK. Things are off to a good start.
Taste: All of the same from the nose. Sugary wood, sugary spice, sugary red fruits. The finish has some chocolatey red fruits and a touch of milder spice that linger for a while. Overall the wood depth seems spot on for 7ish years old and there are only faint hints of untamed ethanol in the mix.
Thoughts: I was expecting a lot and this delivered. It tastes like quintessential, classic Four Roses. The price is reasonable, I didn't have a hard time finding it, and I could have bought as much of it as I wanted. My only knock is I wish it had a touch more age and maybe a tad more proof, like say 8 years and 107 but in this day and age of bourbon hysteria I am pretty happy with it as is. 
Rating: B
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

George Dickel Bottled in Bond Review

George Dickel is a very polarizing product amongst whiskey enthusiasts because as many folks will tell you, it has an incredibly distinct taste and smell that most people liken to vitamins. Open the seal on fresh bottle of multivitamins and smell it - that's sort of what Dickel whiskey can taste and smell like on top of all the usual corny/sweet/woody bourbon notes. It's a very odd flavor that many folks find off putting but over the years I've come to appreciate that odd profile as something different - something along the lines of bourbon being my wife and George Dickel being my mistress. 
As of late, there's been a flood of Dickel based products on the market. On top of the official single barrel store picks from Dickel themselves, we've also seen a ton of NDPs offer it as a sourced product. One in particular that comes to mind are the folks over at Barrell who have been releasing cask strength 13-14 year old Tennessee sourced bourbon that almost certainly is from Dickel. I've enjoyed some of those quite a lot however the $110 price tag has kept me from going back to the well very often. My good experiences with well aged Dickel across the board had me excited to see Dickel themselves releasing an older age product with a decent proof and a very reasonable price point. The best Dickel branded products I've ever had were the 14 year single barrels that clocked in around 106 proof. This product seems really close to those in terms of specs so I'm going into this with high expectations. 
bottle
Tennessee Bottled in Bond Whiskey; No Age Statement (Fall 2005 Vintage Statement); 50% ABV; $36
Nose: There is no escaping the familiar Dickel multivitamins. Also per usual with Dickel there is a heavy smoked corn component, something along the lines of charred cornbread. 
Taste: All the same from the nose. A brief jolt of Dickel minerals, charred corn, and slight musty oak. The finish briefly lingers with almost no flavor other than Dickel minerals and burnt charred wood but even that doesn't last long.
Thoughts: Throwing the specs out the window and judging this as a regular whiskey with no context, this is borderline okay. Bring the specs back into the equation though and judge this for what it should be and it's a miserable failure. They must have filtered the everlasting shit out of this because there is no way it tastes like it's 100 proof. It's so incredible thin and the finish is so incredibly short I'm baffled. I don't know how Diageo managed to royally fuck up what could have been a fantastic release but kudos to them for finding a way to ruin something that should have been great.
Rating: D+
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Knob Creek Small Batch Review

Here today we have Jim Beam's flagship premium small batch bourbon. For the longest time it used to carry a 9 year age statement however a couple years or so ago it was removed. In an interesting recent twist however it was just announced that Beam would be adding the age statement back which is a circle of events I don't think we've ever seen before in bourbon. 
bottle
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; No Age Statement; 50% ABV; $35
Nose: Very typical bourbon nose - woody, vanilla/caramel. A bit of the familiar Jim Beam peanut funk is mixed in as well. It might be slightly boring as far as bourbons go but not bad.
Taste: Just like the nose it checks all the boxes of a middle aged bourbon. There is a good amount of wood, a good amount of sweets, and 100 proof gives it plenty of umpf. I know this doesn't have an age statement but I would guess this is still pretty close to 9 years old if not actually still that old. Beam peanut is pretty pervasive as the sweets take on a peanut brittle kind of flavor. The finish lasts quite a bit and is kind of hot for the proof but lingers with a little rye bit on top of the aforementioned flavors.
Thoughts: It's not very exciting but if you don't mind a hefty dose of nutty flavors in your bourbon this will certainly get the job done. This isn't something I buy regularly as I feel there are better values for the money in this price range but if I am out at a bar with a less than stellar selection I can almost always count on this being available and I never regret getting it.
Rating: B- (80/100)
Note that price is not considered when assigning a rating.