Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon

This bottle of Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon, also known as “the green label", is one of few bottom shelf bourbons I recommend for everyone to try at least once. We live in a world where local/craft distillery’s get away with selling extremely young whiskey for north of $30 a bottle. Heaven Hill Old Style bourbon is a diamond in the ruff; you’ll be hard pressed to find another straight bourbon aged this long and sold at such a reasonable price.

-90 proof

-6 years
-Price: $12

Nose: First whiffs promote a light, sugary sweetness. Peanuts and caramel follow along with a very shy rye spice.

Taste: While the mouthfeel is thin, there is an initial pop of pepper spice and a decent heat. Peanut brittle and brown sugar add sweetness to the palate.

Finish: Extremely smooth, with brown sugar and pepper spice.

Conclusion: At the end of the day, this is a fantastic bourbon for your wallet. The flavors are light but enjoyable, and it makes for a phenomenal mixer.

My Rating:  C (Decent)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ezra Brooks Straight Rye Whiskey

In January 2017, Ezra Brooks launched this new whiskey into it's product lineup. Ezra Brooks Straight Rye is distilled in Indiana at MPG with a mashbill containing 95% rye and 5% barley. It's parent company, Luxco, recently went all in on refining the appearance of Ezra Brooks whiskey in an effort to push a premium brand ideology. For what it's worth, the matte-finish label is a really, really nice touch!  

-90 proof
-2 years old
-Price: $19

Nose: Light and crisp. Red apples, pound cake, and caramel conjure a semi sweet aroma. Heavy dough notes, as if you've stepped into a bakery and smell all the rising bread. Underneath this lays a gentle spice.

Taste: Silky smooth with a thin layer of rye spice and cinnamon. It’s a very soft and clean whiskey on the palate, with apples, bread, vanilla, and caramel.

Finish: Short with a sweetened, gentle spice.

Conclusion: Ezra Brooks Rye is a soft whiskey with an intriguing amount of complexity; it's only 2 years old, yet I’m surprised by the array of flavor, albeit subtle. Compared to the Ezra Brooks 7 year, 101 proof bourbon for $16 (which in my opinion, is the very best bang-for-your-buck bourbon available), this doesn't quite compete. This is a perfect "drink it neat at the end of the night whiskey", after you've exhausted your taste buds with other high end or barrel proof bourbon.

My Rating: C (Decent)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Knob Creek Rye

It is unclear whether Jim Beam believes we are in the midst of a bourbon shortage. They claim they are not, however actions have always spoken louder than words. What is clear, unfortunately, is Beam’s premium whiskeys aren’t as flavorful as they once were. Jim Beam (along with many other distilleries) has removed age guarantees on a variety of mid to premium brands. Basil Hayden’s, for example, was once labeled as "Aged 8 Years", and then the age statement was replaced by "Artfully Aged". In addition to these ambiguous buzzwords  being slapped onto Beam’s bottles today, there also seems to be a noticeable decay in the taste of non age statement whiskey The recent release of Knob Creek rye is a perfect example of a no age statement, (rest assured, "patiently aged”) whiskey that simply isn’t as good as it used to be. 

-100 proof 
-“Patiently Aged”
-Price: $30

Nose: Light sweetness with vanilla, caramel, and sweet corn. The aroma is fairly herbal with a shallow reminisce of rye spice.

Taste: A chocolaty sweetness with herbal undertones. Characteristic Jim Beam yeast flavors stamp an impression onto the palate. Rye notes peak on the back end with a sharp, pepper spice.
Finish: Short with a dry, light spice.

Conclusion:  This recent batch of Knob Creek rye falls short of expectations. A few years ago it was a delicious whiskey with a complex, bold, and spicy profile. These days it’s just decent, tasting light and unapologetic. This decline in age and quality will leave a blemish on Jim Beam as long as their prices continue to remain the same. I didn’t mean to go on a long tangent about quality control (maybe subconsciously), but this evolutionary decay really grinds my gears.

My Rating:  C (Decent) 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Four Roses Single Barrel OESK

Four Roses is the only distillery which uses two mashbills and 5 yeast strains to create 10 distinct single barrel bourbon recipes. They differentiate each unique recipe using four letter designations. The first letter "O"(indicates production in Lawrencburg) and third letter "S" (indicates straight whiskey) are constants, while the second letter indicates the mash bill and the fourth letter indicates the yeast strain.

-117 proof

- 9 years, 7 months
-Mashbill "E": 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% barley
-Yeast "K": light spice, caramel, and full-bodied
-Price: $55

Nose: Vanilla bean and powdered sugar hover right on top of my glass. Cherries and a spike of mint follow. There is a substantial toasted oak presence as well as a whiff of cinnamon that is just mouthwatering. The overall bouquet is enhanced by a thick layer of baking spices.

Taste: Rich and flavorful. An intense spice coats the mouth with waves of black pepper, rye, and spearmint. The sweetness is reminiscent of a Moon Pie, with caramel, marshmallow, and a bit of graham crackers.  

Finish: Medium in length with an intense dry and spicy bravado.

Conclusion:  This OESK single barrel is simply delicious! It's full-bodied, complex, and well balanced. I love this particular recipe because it highlights the spice but doesn't over do it as it uses the lower rye mashbill. For the price, this is also an amazing value.  

My Rating:  A (Great)  

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Smooth Ambler Contradiction

Smooth Ambler's Contradiction is a blend of two straight bourbons. The majority of the blend (73%) is a 9 year, high rye bourbon; the rest (27%) is a 2 year, wheated bourbon. The rye is distilled at MGP in Indiana while the 2 year wheater is produced by Smooth Ambler themselves in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.

Smooth Ambler recently announced they are having trouble keeping up with supply and demand for their sourced whiskies. They are “taking a break” by suspending their private barrel program in 2017. I wonder if this will affect future releases of Contradiction or other sourced blends going forward. On a brighter note, they also announced an upcoming release of their very own 5-6 year old wheated whiskey (available in the gift shop only).

-100 proof
-Batch 2
-Price: $49

Nose: Sweet wheat, cinnamon powder, and rye bread. A grainy element exists in the aroma but is masked by a sharp pepper spice.

Taste: A swirl of sweetness, fruit, and spice. Red-hot candies sweeten up the palate, followed by notes of Hawaiian sweet rolls, mint, and oak.

Finish: Medium with a fading sweetness smothered by black pepper spice.

Conclusion:  This has to be one of the most appropriately named whiskies I’ve ever tasted. Elements of both the younger wheat bourbon and the older rye bourbon play opposing roles which adds a unique complexity to the spirit; at times it’s sweet and grainy, and at times it’s sharp and spicy. If you find this at a reasonable price it’s a fun experiment bourbon, but I would be contradicting myself if I picked up another bottle in the near future.

My Rating:  B (Good) 

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