Thursday, December 7, 2017

Heaven Hill Select Stock

Late autumn and early winter are my favorite seasons; aside from the inevitable common cold symptoms (daily one-a-day vitamins be damned), it’s a time for holidays, family, food, and of course, amazing whiskey. This year for Thanksgiving, we opened a bottle of Heaven Hill Select Stock. These are of limited availability (unfortunately), and can only be purchased at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown Kentucky. This particular release (2016) is a barrel proof wheat bourbon finished in cognac barrels.

8 years old w/ 21 month cognac barrel finish
126.4 Proof
Mash bill: 68% Corn, 20% Wheat, 12% Malted Barley
Price: $150

Nose: Sweet with powdered sugar, dark fruits, baking spices, and toasted oak.

Taste: The cognac finish shines on the palate with notes of honey, raisins, and pepper. It’s well-balanced, yet mellow, with hints of maple syrup, cinnamon, and toasted oak.

Finish: Baking spices linger for a dry and mouthwatering withdrawal. 

Conclusion:  From nose to finish, the best way to describe this bourbon is rich. 21 months in cognac barrels is a long time, but I think it was necessary to mellow out what would have been very hot and spicy wheat bourbon. I personally am not a huge cognac fan, but this certainly meets my expectations.  

 Rating: B+ (Very good)  

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kentucky Owl Straight Rye Whiskey

The Kentucky Owl brand dates back to 1880 and the C.M Dedmon Distillery. Charles M. Dedman produced Kentucky Owl Bourbon before closing to Prohibition in 1919. In 2014, Dixon Dedman (great great grandson of Charles), reclaimed the brand as a Non Distiller Producer. Dixon sourced and bottled bourbon to be sold in Kentucky markets only. Dixon's ability to source high quality barrels (along with the limited distribution) led to the rejuvenated brands success; it quickly developed a cult following and gained massive attention within online bourbon markets. Success, however, never goes unnoticed; the Kentucy Owl brand was purchased by the Stoli Group (major vodka producer) in January 2017. Released in Fall 2017, this is the first ever Kentucky Owl Rye. While we know it is a Straight Kentucky whiskey, we can only speculate on the actual distiller.

Age: 11 years
Proof: 110.6 proof
​​Price: $129.99

​​Nose: A floral bouquet packed with vibrant spices, barrel char, and sweet undertones. The depth to this whiskey is incredible; every passing minute allows additional flavors to distinguish themselves and form a fantastic, evolving aroma.

Taste: Chewy mouthfeel with waves of baking spices splashing onto the palate: black pepper, cinnamon, and clove. A sugary sweetness sparks before being overshadowed by mint leaves, green tea, and wood. 

Finish: A mouthwatering heats fades slowly with floral spices and toasted oak.

Conclusion: I've fallen in love with this Kentucky Owl Rye Whiskey. There are so many flavors to appreciate and unpack; the depth is second to none. At 110 proof, it's extremely smooth yet deliciously bold. Yes I'm frustrated not knowing who distilled it, but Kentucky Owl Rye is not a bottle you want to ignore.  

Rating: A (Great)

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2017

Old Forester was founded in 1870 by George Garvin Brown. Every September 2nd, Old Forester releases a limited edition, vintage-dated bourbon to commemorate his birthday and legacy. The media kit for this year's Birthday Bourbon noted that it is being released at both 96 proof and 95.4 proof. This is a result of alcohol vapors being lost during the bottling process as bourbon was transferred from the holding tank to the bottling line. The sample I received from Brown-Forman is the 96 proof bottling.

Age: 12 years old
Proof: 96 proof
​​Price: $79.99

​​Nose: Sweet caramel and whip cream with toasted oak, walnuts, and a hint of citrus.

Taste: Tobacco and pepper spice balance out a sweet body of sugar cane, cocoa powder, and Boston cream.

Finish: Subtle sweetness quickly fades into a drying oak. 

Conclusion: Although this fell a bit short from expectations set by prior releases, I very much enjoyed the 2017 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. It's well balanced and easy to drink.  If you can find it anywhere close to MSRP, I suggest taking it home with you. Until next year, Happy Birthday George!

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Brace Yourself, BTAC is coming! September 19th marked the release of the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Similar to previous years, this years collection includes the five sought after whiskys we know and love. Every year I hope for a change or addition to the collection (Elmer T. Lee) but it's hard to complain when you see your favorites are all back. Below are tasting notes for each of the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys as well as a ranking. 

2017 Sazerac Rye
90 proof
18 years
25 barrels (2,637 bottles)

Nose: Fluffy vanilla cream balanced by green apples, pines, and mint leaves. Scents of cinnamon and a heavy dose of toasted oak add depth and balance. 
Taste: Cinnamon toast crunch in a glass. This is fantastic! Vanilla icing fights against 18 years’ worth of wood. It’s chewy and bold, yet delicate.
Finish:  Long with a mixture of baking spices and oak.
Rating: A (Great)

2017 Thomas H. Handy Rye
127.2 proof
6 years and 5 months
72 barrels selected (14,021 bottles)

Nose: Vibrant with a bouquet of Fruits- berries, citrus, apples. It’s sweet with a touch of caramel. There is an element of spice presenting as an upbeat, black pepper pop.
Taste: Initial waves of rye bread, fig, and pepper spice. The fruit notes found on the nose are subtle and less expressive on the palate.
Finish:  Dry with a lingering, allspice finish. 
Rating: B+ (Very Good)

2017 George T. Stagg Bourbon
129.2 proof
15 years and 3 month
309 barrels (37,998 bottles) 

Nose: An extremely deep sweetness suppressed by tobacco and coffee beans. Fudge and sugar cane break through after a few minutes of air. Toasted oak lingers at the lip of the glass.  
Taste: Sweet sugars saturate my tongue. Decadent fudge mixes with flavors of tobacco and espresso. 
Finish: Long with spent tobacco and a fading sweetness.
Rating: A (Great)

2017 Eagle Rare Bourbon
90 proof
17 year 3 months
36 barrels selected (1,461 bottles) 

Nose: Gentle herbal spices sprinkled on piles of toasted wood. The sweetness is vibrant- an aroma reminiscent of a moon-pie pastry.  
Taste: Spice kicks into high gear and presents as a pepper pop on the palate. It’s savory with tobacco and wood notes. Sweet sugar fades before you notice it was ever there.
Finish: Long with oak tannin that leaves the mouth watering.
Rating: B+ (Very Good)

2017 William Larue Weller Bourbon
128.2 proof
12 years and 6 months
165 barrels (5,619 bottles)

Nose: Sweetness wrapped in baking spices. red hot candies,  dipped in vanilla cream. leather adds a balance which brings us down to earth.
Taste: Bold flavors on the nose spring to life. Cinnamon and nutmeg poke at the tastebuds. Marshmallows and toffee play perfectly with against a strong toasted oak. 
Finish: Long with a sweet spice. A touch of oak keeps my mouth watering. 
Rating: A+ (Great)

If I could only purchase one bottle, I would prioritize them as such:
1st: William Larue Weller
2nd: Sazerac Rye
3rd: Geoge T. Stagg
4th: Eagle Rare 17
5th: Thomas H. Handy

None of these whiskeys disappointed! The William Larue Weller and Sazerac Rye seem to be noticeably better than last year. It's worth noting that the suggested retail price per bottle is $90. Good luck and happy hunting!