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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project

Friday, April 29th, Buffalo Trace is making an announcement of sorts at their distillery concerning a new product they are unveiling. It’s called the Single Oak Project and it appears the folks in Frankfort, KY have been mighty busy.

To sum it up, 10 years ago Buffalo Trace hand selected single trees and had them coopered into two barrels from each tree. They identified 7 critical areas they believe make up a bourbon’s “DNA”, and varied these factors with each barrel. The result apparently is 192 different barrels of bourbon they will bottling and releasing.

Check out the website here. While not what I expected them to announce, I am certainly looking forward to trying as many as I can. Let’s all hope we can actually find them on the shelves.

POST UPDATE

Buffalo Trace has a release out this morning which explains things in a little more detail.

-Drink your Bourbon!

Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon Review


Booker Noe was Jim Beam’s grandson. He was also the master distiller at his grandfather’s namesake operation for 40+ years until his death in 2004. In 1987, Booker introduced what is now one of Jim Beam’s flagship products, Booker’s Bourbon. Named after the man himself, this massive bourbon is aged on the 5th and 6th floors of a nine-story aging warehouse, which is the “heart” of the facility. It’s an uncut, unfiltered, barrel proof bourbon. This means the barrels are hand selected, batched, and then bottled with no additional water or chill filtration, allowing all of the flavor carriers in the bourbon to remain. Booker Noe wanted this bourbon to be pretty darn pure and unadulterated. Mission accomplished.

Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon, 63.70% abv (127.4 Proof), $50 (Batch #C03-I-16)

Color: Deep Dark Amber/Copper

Nose: Tight nose to start due to such a high alcohol content. It yields with 5-10 minutes of air time. Dry cedar, oak and vanilla hit first, followed by dark caramel, molasses, candied orange, a punch of rye, and cocoa. There’s a fruity quality to the nose as well that’s tough to pin down but quite prevalent.

Flavor: Grab the reigns and hold on tight – the flavors are so concentrated and intense. First there is a hefty dose of spice accentuated by the alcohol punch. Pepper and rye are anchored w/ rich caramel, vanilla, dried golden fruits, barrel char, and bitter orange. Oak integration is excellent. It’s much more in balance than its small batch brother from Knob Creek. Add a couple of splashes of water (if required) to calm things down a bit.

Finish: Long and as bold as the sip with more peppery bite, caramelized nuts, and some resiny oak.

Overall: Man, what a whiskey. I was honestly caught of guard by how fabulous this batch of Booker’s turned out to be. Over time I’ve noticed inconsistencies batch to batch, but when it’s on, Booker’s is as good as bourbon gets. Few bourbons capture sweetness, spice, fruit, and oak so well in their delivery. It’s a fitting homage to one of Bourbon History’s larger than life Icons.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Outstanding/Superb)

New or Notable Whiskey List

This is definitely my shortest post ever. I’m never brief, so this is a first for me.

I thought it might be helpful to put together an ever evolving list of some of the new and notable whiskeys that I’ve had lately. This has been suggested by a few visitors, but I’m just getting around to it. Some whiskey on the list might have received a strong review from me. Others may be whiskeys I’ve yet to fully review but still impressed me. With new American Whiskeys hitting the market every month, this list is what has my attention most. I fully intend to add additional lists as well over time.

So with that, here’s the Whiskey List. It will sit in the top navigation from here onward. I appreciate any and all feedback. If this is not a helpful resource please let me hear it.

Drink your whiskey!

-Jason

WhiskyFest (2011) Chicago Recap

What’s not to like about 250+ (probably close to 300 really) pours of whiskey in one place on one evening? Add to that a gourmet “spread” of food in one of the great cities in America, and you have the recipe for a good time.

The above was a reality for me last Friday (April 15) at WhiskyFest (WF) at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago. John Hansell, Publisher and Editor of Malt Advocate, and his devoted team did a mighty fine job of hosting this years event. It’s not cheap to attend, but whether you are a newcomer to whiskey or an experienced vet with a 1000 bottle “bunker”, WF has something for everyone. It’s a great place to try many whiskeys from around the globe at one convenient location.

Now that I’m a back to reality I thought it might be helpful to do a little recap of what I enjoyed about the event. Of course there were also some new whiskeys being poured, which always warrants a discussion.

There wasn’t much NOT represented at WF, whether from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and of course the U.S. If you pay the up-charge ($185 instead of the regular $135) you are able to enter 1 hour earlier (5:30pm-9:30pm instead of 6:30pm-9:30pm) on a VIP ticket. The distillers bring some pretty rare and expensive bottles to pour during the hour prior to regular admission. For me, it’s worth the head start.

Right off the top, I was really impressed with the shear number and quality of whiskeys many companies brought to WF. Buffalo Trace for example brought practically their entire family of whiskeys, including of course their namesake bourbon. Julian and Preston Van Winkle (Buffalo Trace connection) were pouring the Van Winkle 12 and Pappy 15/20/23. Even a bottle of BT’s new E.H. Taylor was tilted frequently during the VIP hour. BT also poured their entire 2010 Antique Collection throughout the evening. Pretty damn stellar.

Heaven Hill also brought practically every bottle in their lineup as well. This included two Parker’s Heritage Collection bottles (Golden Anniversary and 10yr Wheated Bourbon). Others with a great quantity of the “good stuff” inlcluded High West, Four Roses, Jefferson’s, Ardbeg, Koval, and Samaroli, and independent bottler (with some damn fine stuff), to name a few.

So what stood out? Please keep in mind there are very few “new” and mainstays in American Whiskey that I’ve not tried. By no means were these the only great whiskeys represented at WF, but they stood out in a big way for me:

Angel’s Envy Barrel Strength: This one might have been the best whiskey of the show. The port influence noted in my review from two weeks ago was not in any way compromised. In fact, the intensity was greater due to a much more syrupy and viscous texture. While a bit less easy drinking due to the proof, the chewy dried fruits, sweet, rounded flavors and spice was dialed up in ample measure. If pressed a bit, I’d say it pushes close to 9.3-9.4 territory. Look for this one maybe towards the end of this year.

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel: This one was really unique with a blast of honeysuckle right off the top. I went back twice just to get all I could of this one. The fruitiness is scaled down a bit in favor of the floral, herbal aromas and flavors, but it’s a winner. One cool note; Four Roses, in an effort to make sure other pours didn’t throw off your tasting glass, washed out each glass with a splash of their yellow label. How’s that for thorough? This one comes out in May – be ready for it.

Redbreast 15 Year: My favorite Irish Whiskey has always been Red Breast 12. I think the 15 just knocked it off the top for me. The 12 is a refined beauty with lush fruit, honey, syrupy sweetness and well integrated oak. Well the 15 is a bit of a bully with a darker, denser, richer center, and a wonderful spicy mid palate on through to the finish. It’s a little more like The Pogues to the 12′s Chieftains (bad Irish Music reference). To me it’s less sweet, drier, and more intense. I loved it! It’s available now.

Thomas H. Handy Rye (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection): Sadly I did not get an opportunity to taste this one fully with the 2010 release. I will be picking up a bottle ASAP. While the Sazerac 18 is a beautiful rye with an elegant balance to it, the Handy is another bold bully like the Redbreast 15 above. The rye flavor pops with with spicy zest anchored by fruit and sweetness. What’s also cool is you can actually find this BTAC release – imagine that!

There were many other great whiskeys I tasted, but these stood out to me. Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Finally, one of my observations about whiskey lovers is they are almost always people worth getting to know. WF did not disappoint in the people department. I was fortunate enough to interact with some folks that comment regularly on this blog or that I interact with on Twitter and other sites. That was honestly the highlight for me. I also appreciated the time that John Glaser, Jim Rutledge, Jimmy Russell, Lincoln and Wes Henderson, Craig Beam, Julian Van Winkle, David Perkins, and many other industry folks spent just shootin’ the breeze. Not necessarily pushing their wares, but rather talking shop, the industry, barrel making, distilling, and a great whiskey at the end of a long day (however you like to drink it).

Well that’s a wrap on Chicago WhiskyFest for me. As you can probably tell, I had a great time. Hopefully I didn’t sound like a ad for WF – it’s expensive and may not be for everyone. But if you have an opportunity and would like to attend check out WhiskyFest online. The San Francisco and New York events are later this year.

Drink your Whiskey!

-Jason

Bourbon Review Comparison: W.L. Weller and Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year

W.L. Weller 12 Year Bourbon, $25, 45%abv (90 Proof)

Color: Deep Amber/Copper

Nose: Caramel and Butterscotch, ripe banana, candied almonds, flint, and toasted oak.

Flavor: Buttery, rich, and sweet. Butterscotch, vanilla custard, baking spices, and oak resin breaks up the sweetness

Finish: Toffee and warm, soft cinnamon spice.

Overall: An excellent wheated bourbon at an even better price. Soft, sweet, and rich with enough oak and spice to keep things from becoming too syrupy. This is a big big step up from W.L. Weller 7 year 107 Proof. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Outstanding/Superb)

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year Old Bourbon (Lot B), $50, 45.2%abv (90.4 Proof)

Color: Deep Amber/Copper

Nose: Butterscotch, banana pudding, toasted pecans, and buttered cinnamon toast with a rising wave of oak.

Flavor: Absolutely stunning mouth feel – silky and velvety. Tastes of puddle of butterscotch sauce over vanilla ice cream. It’s sweet and concentrated and then quickly cut with pretty strong dry cinnamon spice and some oaky astringency that interplays wonderfully with the sweetness.

Finish: Butterscotch, cinnamon candy, and some bitter char remain on the finish.

Overall: A seriously great bourbon whiskey. Like the Weller 12 it’s sweet, buttery, and rich, but this one ramps up interest significantly with more spice and barrel. Is it worth the price increase? Well that’s for you to decide, but it’s an outstanding pour. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Outstanding/Superb)

Angel’s Envy Bourbon Review

Angel’s Envy is a new Bourbon Whiskey from industry veteran, Lincoln Henderson. As the retired former Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve, Lincoln has done some fantastic things for bourbon and American Whiskey. It’s also interesting to note that three generations of Henderson’s are involved with Angel’s Envy. Their first release is upon us so let’s discuss it.

What makes Angel’s Envy different? It’s a bourbon of at least 4 years of age (reportedly around 5-7 years) that’s been batched and then finished in large port barrels (or “port pipes”) imported from Portugal. After the bourbon takes a slumber in the traditional charred new oak barrels, it’s dumped into the port barrels until Lincoln deems it ready for bottling (reportedly 3-6 months). The result is one of the fruitiest and effortlessly drinkable whiskeys on the market today.

Angel’s Envy Bourbon, $44, 43.3%abv (86.6 Proof)

Color: Deep copper /Russet

Nose: Incredible aromas! Intense Maple Syrup, sweet corn, vanilla, candied dried fruits, rum soaked berries, and gentle oakyness.

Flavor: Maple syrup, corn, dates, raisins, and clove coat the palate. There’s a ripe plum/grapey flavor that adds a fresh fruitiness.

Finish: Sweet maple, toffee, hints of soft spices, and a lingering fruitiness remain.

Overall: Angel’s Envy is a fun whiskey to sip and savor. It’s ever so smooth, sweet, and fruity – definitely one of the best pours I’ve had this year. The nose for me is the star of this show – a real masterclass. It may be just a tad light on the palate, which has me anxiously awaiting their (reported) barrel strength release at the end of the year. Regardless, this is mighty fine bourbon. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Outstanding/Superb)

Note: Sample provided by Angel’s Envy