Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blanton's Special Reserve Bourbon

Blanton's Special Reserve is one of the many export only bourbons offered by Buffalo Trace. Luckily, it is easily found overseas; whenever I've been on a cruise ship or in an international airport, I see these in duty free shops collecting dust. Similar to the other Blanton's products, Special Reserve is a single barrel bourbon with no age statement. Bottled at 80 proof, it's considered to be the low end of the Blanton's product line. 

-Proof: 80
-Age: NAS
-Price: $49

Nose: Fluffy vanilla, apples, and caramel. Slight spice and a fair amount of oak.  

Taste: Watery mouthfeel. The oak cuts heavy into the palate and lingers from start to finish. The other flavors are less distinguishable, I taste vanilla jelly beans, caramel apples, and a hint of rye spice. That being said, it's surprisingly flavorful for an 80 proof bourbon.
Finish: Quick and dry with a fading wood note.
Conclusion: Blanton's Special Reserve is one of, if not the best, 80 proof bourbons I've ever had. It's fairly balanced and boasts deep oak notes usually found in older bourbons. It's still my least favorite of the Blanton's bunch, but not by much! 

Rating: B (Good)

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Monday, July 31, 2017

WhistlePig Boss Hog: The Independent

The third edition of WhistlePig Boss Hog: The Independent, hit shelves summer of 2016. As with all Boss Hog releases, it's extremely limited, and the price reflects its scarcity. The Independent is the first rye whiskey ever finished in Hogshead barrels. These things are huge, 250 liter scotch casks refitted with American oak heads; guaranteed to lend characteristics of Scotch not found with previous releases. 

-Proof: 120.1
-100% rye 
-Age: 14 years
-Price: $299
-From Barrel #8 of 30

Nose: Warm and enticing with initial waves of deep spice, pine trees, and tobacco. It's well balanced with a slight sweetness, a mixture of vanilla and caramel. 

Taste: Upfront is this delicious mint with a refreshing blast of tea leaves. It's incredibly spicy, with rye, black pepper, cinnamon, and oak. The mouth-feel is thick, with a unique and pungent smoke.
Finish: Warm and mouthwatering. The spice and smoky notes fade slowly into tobacco and oak.

Conclusion: This is a fantastic whiskey! The finish with the Hogshead barrel adds a subtle Scotch smoke which provide  additional layers of flavor. I don't enjoy spending an exorbitant amount on a single bottle, but for Boss Hog: The Independent, I suggest you treat yourself.

Rating: A (Great!)

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Lagavulin 16 Single Malt Scotch

I’m usually behind the curve as it relates to pop culture. I recently finished watching Parks and Recreation, an American political comedy which aired from 2009-2015 on NBC. It’s a great show with a variety of captivating personalities.  One of my favorites, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), embodies a burly man in local government- he loves breakfast, privacy, and whisky. Lagavulin 16 is his drink of choice, so much so that he keeps a bottle under his office desk. He is a frequent drinker and is often sharing a dram among coworkers. I don’t have much experience with Scotch, but after Nick did an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit a while back, citing he drinks Lavagulin in his personal life, I wanted to give it a try.  

-Port Ellen, Isle of Islay
-86 proof
-Aged 16 years
-Price: $79

Nose: A heavy wood smoke embraces you immediately. Caramel candies and dried fruits float from the glass, and are followed by lighter notes of leather and tobacco.

Taste: Pungent and smoky. The mouthful is thick with flavors of peat, caramel, orange glaze, and crisp sea salt.

Finish: Medium in length with a crisp, bonfire smokiness.

Conclusion: The Lavagulin Distillery is located on the coast of the small Scottish island Islay [eye-la].  Aging the barrels there provides the whisky with intense flavors of crisp salt and a peaty smoke. While this is incredibly different from bourbon, it’s always nice to step outside ones comfort zone. As the great Ron Swanson once said, "put some alcohol in your mouth, to block the words from coming out".

My Rating:  B+ (Very Good)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Evan Williams 12 Year Bourbon

If you have never experienced the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,  start planning and be prepared to treat yourself. From Maker's Mark in Loretto, Woodford Reserve in Versailles, Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, to Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, it's a beautiful and historical trip that all whiskey fans should experience at least once. With a bit of luck, you may find a few limited, special, or gift shop only bourbons for the taking along the way. Today we are drinking one of those bourbons. 

Evan Williams is produced by Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, KY. During my first trip to Heaven Hill, our tour guide had us spend about 35 minutes inside a rickhouse, sharing stories and soaking up all the 'angels share'- it was fantastic. This particular bottle is only available at the Evan Williams Experience in Louisville (though it is also released abroad in Japan).

-101 proof
-Aged 12 years
-Price: $129

Nose: Sweet corn with a predominately nutty bouquet. Peanut brittle, caramel, and chocolate, reminiscent of a 100 Grand candy bar. Slight spice notes and toasted oak shape a warm, rich aroma.

Taste: Very chewy mouthfeel with a peanut brittle dominate profile. Caramel popcorn, fudge, and spice are present, however more subtle. There is slight spice and subtle oak.

Finish: Medium in length with peanuts, spice, and toasted oak.

Conclusion: It's safe to say this is my favorite Evan Williams expression. The higher proof and additional age add to the overall complexity and flavor not found in Evan Williams single barrels. At $129 and limited availability, your paying for exclusivity- it is indubitably a 
souvenir bourbon. 

My Rating:  B (Good)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Full Proof 1792 Bourbon

Full Proof is one of five, limited expressions distilled by the Barton 1792 Distillery. Aptly named, Full Proof boasts a rich, full flavored profile. In addition to being bottled at its original entry proof, it was produced using a distinct filtering process- the chill filtration was bypassed so the bourbon passed only through a plate and frame filter.

The other limited expressions from Barton 1792 Distillery include: Sweet Wheat, Port Finish, High Rye, and Single Barrel- all unique in their own right. A few years ago, 1792 only produced small batch bourbon. It’s been a treat getting to taste these experimental, unique whiskeys, and I look forward to future expressions.

125 proof (entry proof)
No age statement
Price: $45

Nose: Caramel and vanilla sweetness hide under a layer of alcohol. Dark roasted coffee, dill, rye spice, and smoke combine to revitalize a seemingly rich bouquet.

Taste: Robust and hot. A sweet entry with sugar and chocolate candies weaken the sharpness of the initial heat. Coffee beans, rye spice, and a deep smoky flavor assist in the balance of the profile.  

Finish: Bold with a hot and warming rye spice.

Conclusion: I love high proof bourbon, but Full Proof contains a powerful heat that leaves me feeling conquered. The flavors are bold, the profile is balanced, but its sharp instead of smooth. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m going to add a few drops of water going forward. It comes with a reasonable price tag, so I recommend you give it a try for yourself!

My Rating:  B (Good)