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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Buffalo Trace Bourbon Review


Buffalo Trace Bourbon, 45% abv (90 Proof), $20

Buffalo Trace doesn’t need much introduction. It is a very popular, top selling bourbon whiskey at a great price. The folks at BT are responsible for producing some of the finest American Whiskey on the market today, including a wide array of bourbon brands as well as rye whiskey. Buffalo Trace has 2 primary bourbon mash bills (grain recipes) not including their wheated bourbon and rye recipes. Mash Bill #1 is the recipe of choice for George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare, Old Charter and others. Mash Bill #2 has a higher percentage of rye and is used for Elmer T. Lee, Blanton’s, and Rock Hill Farm to name a few. While it’s not certain what the exact percentages of corn and rye are, having a number of different mash bills affords Buffalo Trace a great deal of flexibility. Let’s not forget about their namesake product (mash #1), Buffalo Trace……….

Color: Light Amber/Deep Golden

Nose: A complex arrangement in spite of the price. Bright corn graininess, vanilla, golden dried fruits, and tobacco are lifted with a hint of rye, oak, and mint.

Palate: Sharp and lively. The front entry is sweet corn, vanilla, a prickle of rye spice, and a crackle of burnt sugar. The sip moves swiftly toward drying from mid palate on to the finish, with a fantastic toasted oak flavor. There’s a gentle bitterness as well that adds interest. This is not a cloyingly sweet, thick, syrupy whiskey, but rather quite elegant in it’s delivery.

Finish: The finish is more of what started mid-sip; moderate length with bitter char, toasty oak, licorice, and mint.

Overall: I have to remind myself I am drinking $20.00 whiskey when I drink this stuff. It just tastes much pricier. I consider it one of the finest values in whiskey because of that. It’s not ridiculously sweet and flabby like other less expensive bourbons typically are. What I enjoyed most about it was the sharp, bright, graininess without tasting rough and raw. It’s pretty refined stuff and very well made. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.5 (Very Good/Excellent)

Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey Review


Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey, 45% abv (90 Proof), $25

Bulleit 95 Rye is the latest product from Bulleit Distilling Co. Owned by Diageo, Bulleit doesn’t technically distill its Bourbon or their new Rye. They contract with other distilleries to produce both of these whiskeys (the bourbon is made at Four Roses). The new 95 Rye gets its name from the 95% rye grain mash bill from Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI). Originally meant to be used as a blending whiskey, a number of bottlers have begun contracting or purchasing “juice” from LDI to independently bottle. This is the latest to do so, and it’s one of the best.

Color: Deep Golden

Nose: Pungent aroma of gin botanicals, pine needles, fresh lemon zest and honey, ground cinnamon, clove. Bit of mint in the background

Palate: The gin botanicals never leave for long, are spiked with white pepper, hot cinnamon, chili, and wrapped around a moderately sweet core of vanilla infused honey and burned sugar.

Finish: Dry, peppery spice, juniper, and fresh clean oak. A wave of warmth and cinnamon spice remains.

Overall: Bulleit 95 Rye is a welcomed addition to the Rye Whiskey world. Like much of the LDI whiskeys out there, it’s distinct, well made, and delivers great rye flavor. It could do well with a touch more sweetness and weight, but it keeps you coming back for more with an array of high notes and spicy flavors. Factor in the $25 price tag and there’s a lot of value here. This rye sips perfectly well on its own and will shine in cocktails where the whiskey is the star.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

Does whiskey go bad?

I have mentioned Steve Ury’s (Sku) website, RecentEats, before. His site covers a lot of ground about whiskey (global) and food – it’s always a great read. Steve’s post today was exceptional. He did an experiment for a number of years to determine if open whiskey deteriorated over time. Check it out HERE.

My take: I’ve communicated about this topic with many of you. I believe strongly that whiskey does deteriorate if left in half empty (or less) bottles for extended periods of time. It’s not unlike fruit that is left to over ripen on a kitchen counter. The whiskey softens, loses structure, and the spice and bite is reduced tremendously. In short, the character and integrity is altered some.

What can you do about it? I try to consume open bottles within 3-4 months. It’s a great reason to invite some friends over and share a good bottle. But what if you can’t do that? My next suggestion is to purchase 4oz and 2oz Boston Round bottles with screw caps. You can purchase them from companies like Specialty Bottle on the internet. All you need beyond that are some labels and a small funnel from a kitchen supply store.

Once you consume opened bottles down to half or less, simply funnel into a couple of 4oz and/or 2oz bottles. You’ll have to eyeball it, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. If you have an ounce left over, well I’m sure you’ll figure out something to do with it. ; ) Once you’ve re-bottled, simply label it so you’ll know you’re drinking Elijah Craig 12 Year Old (or whatever) months or years later. I also place a date on the label so I can inventory accordingly. That sounds complicated but it’s really not.

The investment is pretty small (approximately $10 for 20 2oz bottles) and it will keep you from blazing through stock. And obviously the bottles are easily reused after a thorough washing. Be certain to dry completely and quickly to prevent mildew from ruining your whiskey. The other nice benefit is the 2oz bottles are a convenient single serving size.

Kudo’s to Steve for going to great lengths for this experiment. That’s what I call dedication! It also deserves “Whiskey Public Service Announcement” designation.

Cheers!

Buffalo Trace’s Quest for Whiskey Perfection

Is there a such thing as the perfect whiskey? If so, then Buffalo Trace believes they know how to make it.

Last week I posted about David Driscoll’s K&L Wines podcast with Buffalo Trace Master Distiller, Harlen Wheatley. If you listened to it (and love whiskey) then I bet you sat up in your chair when Harlen mentioned the mind blowing products coming from Buffalo Trace in April. It was a mere whisper of information with very little detail. In fact I’ve been doing research since trying to figure out what’s coming our way. Information is scarce.

Well, Jason Wilson of The Washington Post has published an article that might be a follow up to that little nugget of info from Harlen. You can check out the article here.

To summarize, Buffalo Trace has gone to great lengths to identify what makes up the “perfect bourbon”. They’ve compiled ratings from top publications, identified which levels and aisles of their aging facilities produce the best whiskey, and which distillation factors make the biggest impact. According to Buffalo Trace CEO Mark Brown, they even have a name for all of this due diligence, “Project Holy Grail”. As in the quest for the perfect whiskey.

Let’s hope we find out sooner rather than later what Buffalo Trace has in store for us. Frankly, I’ll settle for *close* to perfect and be just fine. I’m having way too much fun to see the quest to come to an end.

Baker’s Small Batch Bourbon Review

Baker’s Small Batch Bourbon, 7 Years Old, 53.5% abv (107 Proof), $42-48

Baker’s is our third review from the Jim Beam Small Batch collection consisting of Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek Small Batch, and Booker’s. Aged 7 years, it’s one of the 2 youngest of the four, but it packs a considerable punch in terms of alcohol (107 proof).

Color: Deep Copper

Nose: The nose is tight to start. Caramel, roasted nuts, ripe banana, vanilla bean, cocoa, polished wood, and cedar come forward if left to sit for a spell. Try it neat before adding any water. In fact, if you can avoid it, I think experiencing this one neat is the best way to go.

Palate: I love the mouth feel – it’s thick, syrupy, and coating. Flavors of chewy caramel, vanilla custard, banana, and dried dark fruits abound. All of that is lifted by toasted nuts, sweet spices and resiny oak. This where the 107 proof has been used to “cut through” a very dense, sweet bourbon. Again, I preferred it neat.

Finish: Medium-long with sweetness of dried fruit, caramel and allspice. An interesting peppery quality emerges as well.

Overall: Baker’s is a very good bourbon, and I do mean very good. Having reviewed both Knob Creek Small Batch and Basil Hayden’s from the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, Baker’s is definitely different. It has more sweetness, weight, and less rye forward flavor than Basil. It’s also much less oaky and dry than Knob Creek. My absolute biggest complaint is the price. At well over $40 in some parts, it’s moving into competition with a lot of fantastic American Whiskeys. Regardless, it’s good stuff if you love big, sweet, rich pours of whiskey.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.6 (Very Good/Excellent)

Basil Hayden’s Small Batch Bourbon Review

Basil Hayden’s Small Batch Bourbon, 8 Years Old, 40% abv (80 Proof), $30-38

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon is a part of Jim Beam’s Small Batch collection, which includes Knob Creek Small Batch, Baker’s 107, and Booker’s. Basil Hayden’s is the lightest bodied and highest rye recipe of the four, with as much as double the rye grain content. This bourbon is named after Mr. Hayden himself, who moved to KY in the late 1700s. He was a distiller and was reportedly one of the first to employ this very high rye mash bill for bourbon distillation. It yielded a very different flavor profile. So how does it fare?

Color: Light Amber/Golden

Nose: Clean, and crisp. Wildflower honey, mint, eucalyptus, loose leaf black tea, menthol, and dried citrus peel work in tandem with intense rye grain. Vanilla makes brief appearances. This nose could pass for rye whiskey, and it immediately put me into summer time.

Palate: Again, light with flavors of honey, mint, vanilla, candied lemon peel, and rye in spades.

Finish: We’re seeing a theme with this whiskey. The finish falls off sharply and dryly, but in proportion to what you’d expect for such a light bodied pour. Rye grain and minty warmth remain just to let you know it’s there.

Overall: It’s been noted by visitors to this website and others at just how often Jim Beam products can get brushed aside by “enthusiasts”. I suppose it’s tough to pull for the big boys, and you don’t get much bigger than Beam. Well, I beg of you to cast aside any preconceived notions and bias when you try this one. If you do, then a light and fresh whiskey with rye intensity and subtle sweetness awaits you. Basil Hayden’s refreshingly crisp quality lends itself well to warm weather sipping – it immediately reminded me of summer. I would like to see this offered around 90-92 proof (it would get lost above that). At that range I feel we’d see more of the heat, spice, and complexity that’s been diluted down a bit at the current proof.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.4 (Very Good/Excellent)