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Review: James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon (15 Year)

Thank you for your patience with me and my “time” excuses. I hope things are well with all of you and that you’ve been sipping some excellent whiskey. While I’ve not been posting about it, I sure have! Again, thanks for your patience as I work through many reviews.

Today let’s take a look at James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon, a 15 year old whiskey bottled by James E. Pepper & Co, but distilled by the folks at MGP in Lawrenceburg Indiana. It’s interesting that the folks at James E. Pepper were able to secure such old stock, but age isn’t anything but a number. How does this juice taste…..

James E. Pepper 15James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Bourbon (15 Years), Barrel 46% abv (92 proof), $100/bottle
Color: Deep Amber/Copper
Nose: Quite light and restrained for a 15 year old – very elegant. Sweet caramel, golden apple, and vanilla cover much of any barrel notes. Hints of clove and soft mint (rye) perk up with more time.
Palate: Again, light and elegant. Brittle caramel and barrel spices prickle on the tongue. Vanilla and a baked apple fruitiness as well. Finishes a tad flat. With a splash of water the spice notes are more pronounced, the soft sweetness lessens.
Overall: This is a very good whiskey, if not a touch flat. Tasted blind I’d never guess this was 15 years old. It has aged gracefully, perhaps somewhere shielded from the extremes. Overall it’s balanced and composed from sniff to sip, but it carries a big price tag.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.5 (Very Good)

Review: Henry McKenna Single Barrel (BIB) Bourbon

Happy New Year all. Once again I deeply appreciate everyone’s patience with me the last 6-8 months. Posts and reviews have been sparse, and I’m working hard to get things rolling on Sour Mash Manifesto. Thanks for sticking with the site.

Now, let’s get 2014 started off with a new review of a Heaven Hill brand, Henry McKenna Single Barrel (10 year old) Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Whiskey. Henry McKenna was said to have brought his family’s whiskey recipe from Ireland in the 1830′s, and established a distillery in Kentucky in 1855. Heaven Hill procured the Henry McKenna brand from Seagrams and began producing this whiskey in the mid 90′s. Let’s take a further look shall we?

Henry-McKenna-HMSB-copyHenry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled In Bond Bourbon (10 Years), Barrel #1025, 50% abv (100 proof), $30/bottle
Color: Deep Amber/Russet
Nose: Caramel, golden raisin, rustic corn, vanilla, root beer, and firm oak.
Palate: Classic bourbon flavors of caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, golden fruits with some spicy zip (cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper). Sturdy oak backbone provides some structure. Concentrated, sharp with a beautiful mouth feel.
Overall: This is a satisfyingly delicious bourbon – straight forward in delivery, and rich with rustic character. There’s a healthy dose of spice and heat on the palate to give this bourbon a little pop as well. If you enjoy the Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage dated releases – this 10 year old Henry McKenna has similar DNA, albeit with just a tad less finesse and grace. Outstanding value.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Very Good)

Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection 2013 Bourbon (Promise of Hope)

Two weeks ago I popped into my neighborhood liquor store. I’m fortunate to have a very good store right in my neighborhood, though my bank account would probably disagree. As I walked into the store, I noticed a familiar face greeting customers – Heaven Hill Master Distiller, Craig Beam. Craig and his father, Parker (namesake of this particular bourbon I’m reviewing) are two of the nicest guys in the whiskey industry. It was great chatting with Craig, hearing what’s going on at Heaven Hill, but most importantly learning that his father was doing well in spite of his battle with ALS.

Each year, Parker Beam and Heaven Hill select a special expression of whiskey to release under the Parker’s Heritage Collection label. This year’s release is a 10 year old single barrel from high up in Rickhouse EE – one of Parker’s favorite spots to select barrels. On top of that, the 2013 PHC release is titled the “Promise of Hope” bourbon as a result of a partnership between Heaven Hill and the ALS Association’s “ALS Promise Fund”. For every bottle sold, Heaven Hill is donating $20.00 to promote awareness of the disease, as well as to help raise funds for research and patient care. Kudos to Parker, Heaven Hill, and the ALS Association for coming together for such a great cause.

parkers-heritage-bourbon-290x290Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon (2013), Single Barrel, 48% abv (96 Proof), $80/bottle
Color: Medium Amber/Copper
Nose: Perfectly balanced nose with fruit and spice and some earthy undertones. Caramel apple, hints of maple sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon, elegant oak, dried corn, and a touch of of damp rock and flint.
Palate: A very concentrated entry on the palate of hard caramel candy nuanced with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, chili, and white pepper). Dried golden fruits (apple, apricot) round out the complex and layered delivery.
Finish: Caramel and warmth from the wood spices linger long.
Overall: Those looking for some sort of statement whiskey, some sort of novelty (finishes, old old barrels, etc), are going to miss what this whiskey is all about – a simple and supremely balanced bourbon. Much like the man himself, the 2013 Parker’s is razor sharp in spots but always composed – almost elegant. This is delicious 10 year old single barrel bourbon bottled at a near perfect proof. In fact, if Heaven Hill is listening, I’d like to see the Evan Williams Single Barrel pushing closer to this proof point. Very well done!
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Superb)

Review: 2013 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Brown-Forman has been producing the distillery’s annual Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (OFBB) release since 2002. Named after the distillery’s founder, George Garvin Brown, the release celebrates Mr. Brown’s September 2nd birthday. I personally have a love-hate relationship with the OFBB release. The 2010 I rated a whopping 9.3 – superb stuff. Other annual releases have ranged from underwhelming to very good. The question is did Brown-Forman bring out the good stuff for 2013…….

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2013), 49% abv (98 Proof), $54.95/bottle
Color: Medium Amber/Copper
Nose: Vanilla custard, caramelized banana, chocolate, dried dark fruits, and bright orange oil. Gentle oak character, but overall rich, sweet, and fruit forward.
Palate: Vanilla, butterscotch, pecan, and dried fruit livened with bitters, ginger, nutmeg, and hints of toast.
Finish: Lingering caramel sweetness, barrel spices (clove, nutmeg), and humming warmth.
Overall: The 2013 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (OFBB) is as epic a nose as you will find in the whiskey world – absolutely jaw dropping. The palate is perfectly proofed, harmonious, and on the sweeter side. I can easily say you’d have to look at the 2010 release to find an OFBB release as strong as this years. Even at $55 I consider the 2013 release a must try for bourbon lovers. Send me your opened bottles if you don’t enjoy the hell out of it – my birthday is right around the corner.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.5 (Superb)

Review: Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel

Four Roses has been on one hell of a roll. Aside from having an excellent product line in the company’s primary whiskey portfolio, Four Roses’ Limited Release offerings (two annually) are always highly anticipated. The 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch received my highest rating for 2012 for example.

The 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel is a 13 year old barrel proof whiskey using the distillery’s OBSK recipe (high rye mash bill, “K” yeast strain). Let’s taste it…..

four-roses-limited-edition-single-barrel-2013-202x300Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel (2013), 57.3% abv (114.6 Proof), $70/bottle, Barrel #3-2D
Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Elegant and refined. Caramel, orange blossom honey, maple syrup, crisp mint, nutmeg, strawberry jam, and graham cracker.
Palate: Very composed flavors of maple syrup and honey, touches of cocoa and mint, and light fruit character. Additional water brings on more chocolate and fruity notes. Full of flavor, yet uncluttered.
Finish: Maple and butterscotch sweetness, a touch of old barrel and nutmeg linger.
Overall: Another stellar offering from Four Roses! There isn’t a distillery producing better limited release whiskeys today. The 2013 Limited Edition (LE) Single Barrel takes over where 2012′s LE Small Batch left off (and the 2012 LE Single Barrel before it, etc. etc). This one keeps you guessing with each sip as the aromas and flavors are so well dovetailed together. Easily one of the best whiskeys of 2013.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Superb)

Review: Rowan’s Creek Bourbon

I hope this post, my first in quite some time, finds everyone doing well. I continue to battle a hectic schedule, but I am hoping to work through what can only be described as a mountain of whiskeys to review.

The first one I am breaking down is Rowan’s Creek Bourbon. Bottled by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD), Rowan’s Creek is a small batch bourbon sourced from another distillery. As we’ve discussed on the site, KBD is now distilling their own whiskey, but the products you see on the market from them today (Willet offerings, Noah’s Mill, etc) are sourced elsewhere.

With that brief intro out of the way, let’s tuck into the bourbon Robert Parker made famous shall we?

rowans-creek-bourbon
Rowan’s Creek Bourbon, 50.05% abv (100.1 Proof), $35.00, Batch No: QBC No. 12-67
Color: Deep golden/light amber
Nose: Caramel and spicy, floral honey notes up front. A sweet and fruity baked cinnamon apple overshadows the oak influence, which is restrained. Vanilla is present in spades.
Palate: Well spiced – cinnamon and chili heat quickly cut through the caramel, corn and honey sweetness. Vanilla and oak round out the flavors on the palate. A splash of water calms things a bit, bringing on more oak, and even a bit of fruity sweetness.
Finish: Only moderate in length, but with ample caramel and vanilla (a touch of charred oak).
Overall: Rowan’s Creek is an excellent whiskey that hits a lot of the characteristics I look for in a great bourbon. It has the sweetness, spice, a bit of fruit, and enough going on to make things interesting, while still being accessible. The price point is pretty solid as well. There’s a lot of speculation about where KBD sources whiskey for this bottling. I personally don’t think they are traveling very far to get the juice for Rowan’s Creek. Heaven Hill is a long par 5 away from KBD’s headquarters in Bardstown, KY, and Rowan’s Creek has some of that Evan Williams DNA. Give this one a try.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)