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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Bourbon Brothers: 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon

1920 Prohibition Style is the third expression in the Old Forester Whiskey Row Series. Old Forester was one of six distilleries granted a permit to continue distillation during Prohibition. Intentionally bottled at 115 proof, this expression commemorates that time in history.

-115 proof
-No Age Statement
-Price: $59

Nose: A mixture of sweet and spicy notes accompanied by cherry preserves. Cinnamon toast, vanilla wafers, and an intense seasoned oak spice

Taste: Sharp with a thick mouthfeel. Vanilla cake, tootsie rolls, and chocolate covered cherries. These sweeter notes quickly fade from the dominating spice. Cinnamon and black pepper rule the palate along with a healthy dose of toasted oak

Finish: Spicy with a crisp, clean exit. 

Conclusion:  This is one of the better new bourbons released in 2016.  It's well balanced and the higher proof lets the flavors shine. It's my favorite expression in the Whiskey Row release, and more importantly, it's well worth the retail price. 

My Rating:  B+ (Very Good) 

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Bourbon Brothers: 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon

When I see E.H. Taylor bourbons, the first thing that comes to mind is the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. As an early bourbon pioneer, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor was an advocate of higher standards in the bourbon industry and Buffalo Trace has honored him with this fine line of whiskeys. As other reviews of the brand can attest, I have yet to try a disappointing E.H. Taylor product, and I have high expectations for this single barrel expression.

-100 proof
-No Age Statement
-Price: $55

Nose: The mixtures of scents epitomize that of a milk chocolate candy bar. There’s a heavy caramel, cream, and toffee influence. The aroma is complex, yet balanced. It's nutty, and has layers of black pepper and dusty oak.

Taste: Initial blasts of caramel are joined by marshmallow fluff and peanuts. A sharp, rye spice sparks the mid palate and is backed with leather and oak tannins.  

Finish: Medium in length with a balanced sweet, yet spicy dryness.

Conclusion:  I like to call E.H. Taylor whiskey “good stuff” bourbon, because it’s always good stuff. This Single Barrel fits right between the Small Batch and Barrel Proof offerings in terms on quality. The flavors fuse together well without overpowering one another. At the price, it’s hard to find many better options.

My Rating:  B+ (Very Good) 

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Bourbon Brothers Review: