Sour Mash Manifesto

Bourbon and American Whiskey

Most Wanted

This weekend I was pondering the world of whiskey and in particular what I’d most like to see from producers. Obviously, for a whiskey lover, spending too much time on this subject could yield a rather long list. Outside of easy availability for all for the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and Van Winkle products, here are a few things I’d love to see:

George Dickel Barrel Strength No. 12: George Dickel is probably my favorite distillery. Is it because they produce the best whiskey? No – not exactly. I do love their 12 year old and Barrel Select, and it’s such a quaint, beautiful distillery tucked into a remote hollow in the southern portion of Middle Tennessee. I hate the fact that it’s treated as second class by the parent company, Diageo. Anyways, I would love to try a barrel proof version of their No. 12. I don’t think this one will ever see the light of day. Diageo uses Dickel essentially as a barrel producer for the company’s main whiskey brand, Johnnie Walker. Don’t plan on them doing any special releases that might divert away from their primary mission. Hey, a man can dream though.

Older (17+ year) Four Roses: This kind of goes against Four Roses Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge’s, philosophy on great bourbon. He believes bourbon hits a sweet spot between 8-12 years. I’d be a fool to think I know more than a thimble full of the whiskey knowledge Jim possesses, but I can’t help thinking that their single story aging process would make for some stellar older bourbons(17-20 years). Aging whiskey in a single story warehouse (5-6 barrels high) puts the whiskey through a less volatile aging process. If you’ve tasted many Four Roses products, what you’ll notice in most cases is well integrated oak – it’s a component and not the star of the show. Every now and then we get a taste of some older juice in the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch releases, but it’s usually mingled with 10-12 year old bourbon. What I want to see is either a blend of older bourbons or some single barrels. Are you listening Four Roses?

Four Roses Rye: Four Roses makes it on my list again here. It’s widely known that Four Roses uses more rye grain in their “B” mash bill than just about any other bourbon. A distillery that does that as well as Four Roses I’m sure could produce some outstanding rye whiskey. More than that, I’d be keenly interested in seeing how Four Roses’ 5 yeast strains influence a final rye whiskey. Talk about a hell of a lot a options. Will we see it? Rye whiskey isn’t going anywhere, and provided Four Roses can add it to their product line without hurting bourbon production, I think we will see it one day. Check out my three part discussion with Jim from 2011. He talks about rye a little bit. The reason it’s not an easy decision is because Four Roses, in spite of the history, is still a young brand (reintroduced in the U.S. in the last decade). It has taken tremendous efforts just to get the primary product lines (Yellow Label, Small Batch, and Single Barrel) entrenched. That’s a smart business model for sure – do a few things REALLY well, but I think it’s time for Four Roses to branch out. A rye whiskey is the perfect way to do so. The bad part is we’ll have to wait a long time before it would be properly aged. I’m patient though.

These are just a few things I’d like to see from a couple of producers. What about you? Let’s hear what you’d most like to see.


  1. Four Roses has been selling 16-17 year bottles of OBSV in their gift shop since last November. They go through a barrel or two at a time, and I think they’re on barrel #11 or so at this point. I think OBSV ages beautifully. The 100th Anniversary single barrel release (2010?) was a 17 year OBSV as well.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to put a few bottles away for future enjoyment, but you might want to call ahead if you’re heading over there just to snag one of these, because from what I understand, they don’t always have them in stock. Just delicious stuff, though. Sticky, syrupy without being too sweet, deep, soft jammy tones flanked and infused with a cool, satisfying wintermint. The bottles I’ve opened have barely lasted two weeks; a good thing, as I understand that too much airtime and these start to fade away from their glory.

    I really think we ought to think twice about encouraging Four Roses to ramp up their program on this extra-aged bourbon: it would position them in a prime spot for world domination.

  2. Aaron’s dead on. I reviewed the 17 year 4R earlier this summer, and OBSV at least holds up to the age admirably. Honestly, I kind of prefer it to the latest Weller/Stagg – it’s got age and some heat, but it’s not a one-trick pony.

  3. Staying with the Four Roses theme, I’d love to see what their various yeasts could do with a wheated mashbill.

  4. Aaron and Tim, I’d like to see more and even older than their distillery only bottling. If Elijah Craig can put out such a nice 20 year old, I imagine with Four Roses’ aging methods we’d see something really phenomenal for those that like older juice (me). Perhaps they could do it as a part of the Limited Edition series.

  5. I wish I could find some Dickel up in NJ. Found a small place that had three bottles of #12 and bought all three. Ive found two other places that have “red label,” but that is it. Never have seen GD8.

  6. I have a bottle of the 4 Roses barrel #10, 17 year old OBSV and also an 11 year old OESK, both bought at the distillery gift shop in July. The higher rye 17 yr is fantastic juice at 111 proof with just a tiny splash of water to open it up. The 11 yr needs a little more water at 121 proof, but it’s very good as well. I should have bought a couple more of the 17s though!

  7. I would like to see more readily available wheater bourbons closer to barrel proof and with 10+ years of age in the barrel. Parker’s Heritage was great and WLW is always consistent. And of course I have to mention Pappy 15 at 107 proof. Are there just very little reserves of older wheater bourbon or is there another reason they are only offered with rationed availability?

  8. I’m with you on the George Dickel #12 barrel strength. How fantastic would this whisky be?!

  9. Jason, I’m with you on both Four Roses requests, I would love to see Makers come out with a 100 proof bourbon. I would also like to taste Basil Hayden at 100 proof ( I know, its Old Grandad BIB) but I would still like to see it. I would also like to see some longer aged “wheaters”, Maybe and Old Fitzgerald 20 year old? How about a Woodford Reserve Barrel Strength?

  10. Older refill-barrel ‘bourbon-mash’ whisky. Something like Austin Nichols “American Pheasant” at 101 proof in Art Nouveau designed bottles with 15-20 years on it in refill barrels. You can get cheap, young, partly-refill barrel whisky, but real long, slow aging in 2nd fill barrels would be interesting. My euro-centric whisky colors are showing…

    I’d totally buy a “kit” from Four Roses – the All Ten. Small samples of each Yeast/Mashbill combination, selected so that the yeast-influenced flavors really pop. I’d just love to see the influence of each component part, and I’m a sucker for releases which are multi-part tastings in a single box. 17yo distillery bottling? I might have to head back to Lawrenceburg sooner than I’d anticipated. If only I didn’t have to drive through Cincinnati to get there… Do Wild Turkey and Woodfords have distillery bottlings too? Might as well hit a few if I’m already in the area (the more western-Kentucky distilleries are out of convenient range from Dayton. Within striking distance, but not really all in the same trip).

    As to Dickel, Diageo is foolish not to exploit it better. Barrel-strength is potentially just the same whisky with less water to it. Nothing to screw up their downstream barrel supply. Alternately, crib from Buffalo Trace and, heck, their own Distiller’s Edition SMSW releases and do a small release every year of an extra old version. Don’t need to make much of it if it’s good – the hard-to-find nature adds buzz, and Dickel could use a boost. Seems like it’s an almost forgotten whisky, while Jack rules the roost for some silly reason.

  11. Great post Jason! My wish list would be a mile long as well. I’ve had little exposure to Dickel and it sounds like I should definitely give it a try. I just finished a 16yr FR that was incredible, one of my favorites. Lots of berry fruit. Surprisingly, those notes faded after a few months of air time with the bottle open. First time I’ve noted that. I have a couple of the 17yr’s Aaron and Tim mention but I’ve yet to crack one.


  12. We have corn, rye and wheat whiskies, as well as Bourbons with all different mashbills, but how about a barley Bourbon, say 51% corn and 49% barley. Anyone ever hear of something like it?

  13. Doesn’t Town Branch have a mashbill of 51% corn and 49% barley?

  14. Hey Jason

    Im a young lad from the Unviersity of Florida and my first taste of bourbon was Jim Beam white. We would drink this stuff up on game days. Bottle of beam in one hand and a bottle of coke in the other. Go Gators! But just recently I really started to be more interested in bourbon. I enjoy your blog and all your reviews.

    My first pick up was Bulleit. I couldnt pass up the price and the bottle was pretty nice. I mostly drank it on a few ice cubes and i really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more than my second bottle which was the classic beginner bourbon. Makers Mark.

    So, I was hoping you had some advice and or some reccomendations for a young novice like myself?

    In the meantime…. Drink you bourbon

    Your new follower

  15. I, too, wouldn’t mind seeing a barrel strength Dickel. Tried the latest Tennessee whiskey recently, Jailers. Has anyone else here tried it? The price point is good. 86 proof is a bit weak, but right between JD and GD12. They haven’t finished their distillery so the whiskey is from some sort of “secret stash.” Right. It’s pretty good, though. I know Jason must have tried it. What do you think?

  16. Dave in Oklahoma

    August 29, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    Hey Jason,
    Love George Dickel #12!! I’ve been warming up to a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel “put in oak” 2002…Mmmm,Mmmm,good!!

    What I’d like to see you do is a review of the so called “moon shine” out on the shelves. Ones you rate acceptable and ones to stay away from! Also, just single barrel comparisons or ones “put in oak”.

    NCAA:Go Sooners
    NFL:Go Texans

    Dave in Oklahoma

  17. @Jake – I believe Bulleit Bourbon still comes from Four Roses as they outsource their products. So, FR would be a good place to look for a quality bottle to have on special occasions. Also, take some time to try a variety of product to get an idea of what is available and what styles you enjoy. There is plenty of quality product under $30 to choose from. Unfortunately, our selection here in FL can be somewhat limited compared to other parts of the country. Just keep looking. I usually keep Evan Williams Black around as a daily sipper and hope to have in hand this evening a bottle of Heaven Hill 100 BiB to try. Another relatively inexpensive bourbon I have enjoyed, and available here in FL, is the EW Single Barrel. (2002 is out now)

  18. I would like to see OWA 107& ORVW 10 at 100 proof.I had the pleasure of finding a “very dusty”Weller Centenial.Shame they discontinued it.Stuff is absolutly dynamite.

  19. I have a bottle of Elmer T. Lee on the shelf right now that is my favorite bottle of distilled spirit of any kind ever. Unfortunately they haven’t all been like that. I have had mixed results from every product from that mash bill. (OK mixed may be a bit harsh – but they were some that were nothing special)

    I would like to see a consistent high quality barrel proof product from that mash bill with hopefully at least the volume of Handy.

  20. I’m glad Dave brought up “moonshine.” I don’t know how they get away with calling it that when the term itself implies illegality. I have tried several. I wish Mellow Corn were available in Texas. I have always like Platte Valley Corn Whiskey. It is not exactly clear because it is aged around three years in oak barrels, presumably not charred. But, I recently tried Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine and liked it quite a bit. Unlike some of the others I have tried, it actually tasted like corn liquor and not like some variant on vodka. The “mason jar” it comes in looks more realistic than the one that Shine on Georgia Moon uses. I’ve had two jars, I liked it so much. It’s a nice change of pace from aged whiskey and tequila (blanco) for me.

  21. Looking and cannot find a particular bourbon in your area ? Consider shopping On-Line via The Party Source (website).
    The Party Source has internet sales & shipping program (with Uncle Sam’s approval). Shipping to numerous states.
    As a Cincinnati resident it’s easy for me to make “Bourbon Run” to The Party Source. The Party Source is directly across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky. Large bourbon inventory with your choice 750ML, One Liter, and 1.75L.
    Retail Store AND Website “Fun Place” to research next bourbon acquisition.

  22. OK, how about a Pennsylvania rye-centric request (at least from a distance)?

    Bottled in Bond Old Overholt from Beam, just like in the old days back in the Youghiogheny River valley! I wrote to Beam years ago asking they consider a BIB version for the 200th anniversary of the brand to no avail, but a fella can dream, can’t he?

  23. @sam k — While you may have not had any luck with the folks at Beam, you might have better luck in trying to convince the folks producing Dad’s Hat Rye which is supposedly made in the Monongahela style. Still waiting to get my hands on a bottle of their aged product which is now shipping outside of PA. They have some at K&L, for example. No extensive reviews though that I can find. WA has only reviewed their white rye product.

  24. Thanks Andrew, and I’m glad you brought up Dad’s Hat. I provided a bit of perspective on the makeup of Monongahela rye to Herman Mihalich, a Mon Valley native and the driving force behind the brand, prior to their setting up shop, and they have done an excellent job with the recipe and process for their distillate.

    The aged product has spent 7-9 months in new quarter barrels and has some lovely fruit and bready rye notes at 90 proof. I’m looking forward to exciting things from them as they progress. At $40 a 750 in PA, it’s the best craft whiskey deal available here. Good luck getting it in your local.

  25. P.S. Dad’s Hat will be at WhiskyFest New York in October!

  26. @sam k — For some reason we do not see much in the way of rye product down here in FL. Actually, we do not get a great selection of bourbon/whiskey/rye down here, period.

  27. How about George T Stagg at barrel strength???? That would be very good!!!!!
    (their has to be a smart ass in the bunch)

  28. I was about half way done with a 5th of Old Charter Proprietors Reserve 13 Year Old. I bet it would have been good a barrel strength.

  29. Jason, Four Roses is the best of the best…they would make an unbeatable Rye whiskey!!! Till then, enjoying all all of the single barrel offerings Four Roses has to offer!!! Four Roses is a ture Southern Belle!!!

  30. I want to see more barrel srength offerings from other distilleries like Woodford Reserve or even Jack Daniels (since the Dickel suggestion was already taken). I would also love to see more older expressions past 12 years, Like Evan Williams, or Wild Turkey, or even Jim Beam. Finally…for the love of whiskey….can we PLEASE have more wheaters!?! Rye bourbon outweighs wheated bourbon by 50 to 1! I may also add that they treat it right and not rush it 😉

  31. One whiskey I would love to see is a bottling of Basil Hayden’s between 90 and 100 proof.

  32. @sam k — looks like Dad’s Hat now has a limited supply of barrel strength available for purchase at the distillery.

  33. How did you come up with Dickel No 12 Barrel Proof idea? I can’t stop thinking of it. Would the balance change? I guess the only possiable way is request an undiluted No 12 at George Dickel. I think they vat it there from special racks and ages but bottle and delute it else where. Not even in tennesse. Another option is try to get Dickel let you sample a single barrel barrel proof unfiltered right from the cask.

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