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Review: High West A Midwinter Nights Dram Rye Whiskey

High West released “A Midwinter Night’s Dram” Rye Whiskey earlier this year. It has taken some time to hit my area sadly, but I was finally able to procure a bottle. This whiskey is of the same blend of straight rye whiskeys that make up the distillery’s Rendezvous Rye bottling. It consists of a 16 year old rye whiskey from Barton distillery blended with a 6 year old 95% rye grain whiskey from Midwest Grain Products (MGP), formerly LDI. The final blended whiskey is then finished in both Port and French Oak barrels.

HighWestMidwinterNightsDramFront900_grandeHigh West A Midwinter Nights Dram Rye Whiskey, 49.3% abv (98.6 proof), $85/bottle
Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Familiar MGP (Former LDI) Rye rounded with more sweet notes. Mint, cinnamon, and gin botanicals meet dried dark fruits and berry aromas. Vanilla caramel sweetness anchors the nose.
Palate: Caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, raisin, and red berry syrup. Nice oak grip and balanced barrel notes.
Finish: The port finish lingers – dark fruits, caramel, and warm spices.
Overall: A Midwinter Night’s Dram is a delicious mingling of rye whiskeys enhanced by the finishing process, not overcome by it. In this case the fruitier, richer aromas and flavors from the port balance the base rye’s bright notes. In an industry that has seen independent bottlers go from sourcing whiskey and placing their label on it, to sourcing whiskeys and shoving it in a finishing barrel, any barrel, it’s nice to see a deft hand with finishing yield an improved product. Well done!
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Superb)

Review: Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary Bourbon

Wild Turkey released a limited edition bourbon in celebration of Jimmy Russell’s 60 years with Wild Turkey. As Master Distiller, Mr. Russell has been responsible for providing the whiskey loving world with great whiskey all those decades. It’s pretty remarkable. The Diamond Anniversary Bourbon is a blend of 13 and 16 year old bourbon from barrels selected by Eddie Russell, Jimmy’s son and the other Master Distiller. Incidentally, Eddie has been with Wild Turkey for 34 years himself – pretty impressive (but it’s not 60). Let’s tuck into this one and see what it’s got.

wild-turkey-diamondWild Turkey Diamond Anniversary Bourbon, Barrel 45.5% abv (91 proof), $125/bottle
Color: Medium Amber/Golden
Nose: Honey, dried apricot, orange, brown sugar, sweet vanilla & floral notes, dry toasted oak.
Palate: Razor sharp and elegant. Honey, caramel, vanilla, bright orange, fresh mint, chile heat, cinnamon, and dry oak.
Finish: Medium finish, dry, lingering caramel sweetness, bitter char, and barrel spices.
Overall: This whiskey is an absolute beauty – presenting both bright, balanced, clean flavors while being extremely complex and nuanced. On top of that it is effortlessly drinkable. All of this quality comes at a price though – great whiskey abounds for this much dough. Whether it’s worth it to you or not depends completely on your whiskey budget and how much you enjoy this style. If you can stomach the price, you will be rewarded with an outstanding pour. Here’s to Jimmy Russell and a fitting salute to 60 years.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.3 (Superb/Outstanding)

Review: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year

Jim Beam Signature Craft is a 12 year old small batch bourbon that was released in 2013. I’m really over the terms “craft” and “artisan” to describe whiskey or anything else, but I digress. One thing I like from the start is the screw cap. Folks, there’s little wrong with a screw cap. A cork coated in a 1/4 inch of wax (with an ill designed pull tab) is overrated. I do enjoy being able to open the bottle easily.

Let’s get to it……

Beam Signature CraftJim Beam Signature Craft Small Batch Bourbon (12 Years), 43% abv (86 Proof), $40
Color: Medium Amber/Copper
Nose: Toffee, vanilla, cherry liqueur, cinnamon, and rich oak.
Palate: Right on point with the nose – caramel, spiced honey, cherry syrup and cinnamon spice. Nice backbone of oak throughout the sip.
Finish: Toasted almond, dried fruits, vanilla, and toasted oak.
Overall: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 year is really well done. It’s harmonious, balanced and quite elegant (easy drinking too!). My one knock is the fact that it could be a bit under-proofed. However, considering Knob Creek Small Batch is in the lineage (and its a bit too oak driven to me), perhaps they got the proof just right with Signature Craft 12 year. It’s a beautiful whiskey.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.9 Superb)

Review: Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a high rye (recipe) bourbon that’s……well, the grand-dad to the 100 proof Bottled-In-Bond (BIB) version I reviewed a couple years ago. As I noted in that review, the “Granddad” pays homage to Basil Hayden. Mr. Hayden was well known for favoring more rye in his bourbon mashbill than was common (even today). While we don’t know the exact percentage of rye, it’s up there. The brand is owned, distilled and bottled by Beam.

Let me say before tucking in – it’s comforting to get the reviews flowing with something that is available to most, and a reasonable (sub $30) price point.

old-grand-dad-114-lOld Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon (Bottled in Bond), 57% abv (114 Proof), $28
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: This bourbon’s attitude is airy and effervescent even at full strength. Orange rind, burned sugars, honey, southern spearmint, touches of floral (orange blossom, honeysuckle) notes and grain (corn and dry rye). Pour and leave in the glass for a good 3-4 minutes. The initial alcohol blast quickly subsides and you can get to business.
Palate: Brief notes of honey, bitter orange, caramel and vanilla yield to warming spices (cinnamon, mint, white pepper). Barrel flavors and a bit of resiny grip lead to the finish.
Finish: Lingering finish of toasty oak, orange, and caramel sweetness.
Overall: OGD 114 is a very good bourbon and it’s different. It’s one of those whiskeys, like the 100, that you just don’t taste all the time. It’s NOT a heavy whiskey in terms of nose and flavor, but the proof nips in spots. Water is your friend, and it’s easily to dial this one into a comfort zone for you.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.7 Very Good/Excellent)

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)