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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)

Rest In Peace Elmer T. Lee

The whiskey world lost an icon today with the passing of Elmer T. Lee. While it may be arguable that Mr. Lee was responsible for pushing for the release of the first Single Barrel Bourbon in Blanton’s Single Barrel. What is not arguable is that Mr. Lee certainly deserves recognition for making Single Barrels more accessible to all of us. He made them popular by taking a risk that none were taking at the time. Eventually Elmer T. Lee got his own namesake bottle of Single Barrel bourbon produced at Buffalo Trace. I believe right up until very recently he was still hand selecting barrels for the ETL bottling.

For me, I will always remember Elmer T. Lee fondly for his namesake whiskey, and what it represented for me personally. This single barrel bourbon was the bourbon that ignited the flame of passion for me with regard to whiskey. I remember the first time I tasted it how harmonious it was, how drinkable, yet how complex the flavors were. To this day I enjoy the hell out of Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, keeping a bottle on hand at all times. I have a beautifully engraved glass caraffe bottle at the office. Contained within is Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel for when the 4:30 hour calls. I will think fondly of him each time it does.

My sincerest condolences and prayers to Mr. Lee’s family. May he rest in peace.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Review: Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey

Angel’s Envy Bourbon has no doubt been quite a success story. The company set themselves apart with a sourced (not distilled by Angel’s Envy but procured) bourbon finished in port barrels. This easy drinking, fruity bourbon has won over a lot of folks, including me. I rated it a 9.3, which is an extremely high rating on my site. What I appreciated most about Angel’s Envy Bourbon is the company took a pretty standard, “good” bourbon whiskey and made it FAR better than the sum of its parts through this finishing (a second aging) process.

So what does the company do for the next major release?

Angel’s Envy has just answered that question with a new Rye Whiskey finished in Caribbean Rum casks. Offered at 100 proof, Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey begins with a sourced rye from Midwest Grain Products (MGP, formerly LDI). Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, or not paying attention, you’ve likely had an MGP rye in the form of Bulleit Rye, George Dickel Rye, or many other products on the shelves. MGP has built a name for producing unique bourbon and rye whiskeys that many independent bottlers are working overtime to make less unique.

Needless to say, a whiskey geek like me certainly looks forward to trying something like this. Here are my thoughts….

Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey, 50% abv (100 Proof), $70.00/bottle
Color: Light Amber
Nose: A trip to the islands. Brown sugar, Orange and grapefruit rind, candied pineapple, coconut cream, clove, and cinnamon with the green, fresh herbal and gin botanical spice notes ever present in MGP rye whiskeys. The rum influence is heavy handed, and I’d prefer something a bit more harmonious, but it’s intriguing and completely unique. A splash of water brought out some lemon-lime soda (WTF?).
Palate: Creamy on the palate with spiced honey, brown sugar syrup, golden raisin, cinnamon, and a sweet rye notes. The rye spice is most prevalent on the palate.
Finish: The finish lingers moderately with a big return of the rum, tropical fruit sweetness, and green rye spice.
Overall: I haven’t been more confused about a whiskey in a long time. In a world of sameness (all those other MGP ryes that taste VERY similar), it’s nice to nose and sip something different. Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey certainly qualifies as “different”. More similar to rye flavored rum from a profile perspective, I cannot say I have ever tasted a whiskey that’s picked up more aroma and flavor from a finishing process. That’s good and bad because the fresh, green rye notes fought the heavy, sweet rum influence from sniff to finish. I’d have preferred something a bit more harmonious and well integrated. One interesting little note – my lips and hands (dripped a little) smelled like I’d been drinking pina coladas all day. If you love (I mean LOVE) rum, and are looking for something totally different in the American Whiskey category – this one ticks all those buttons. I predict most will either love it or hate it, but give it a try and let me know what you think. It certainly has character (and a big price tag). Ahoy me hearties!
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.2 (Very Good)

***Sample provided for this review***

Review: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon

What’s in a name? Apparently Wild Turkey thinks you need to know that not only is the new Russell’s Reserve Bourbon release a single barrel, but it’s also small batch. That’s kind of a given as a single barrel, but whatever (those damn marketing guys).

Unnecessary words aside, I’m a Wild Turkey fan and also a fan of Russell’s Reserve. I enjoy the interplay and balance between fruit, spice, and sweetness that is a hallmark of WT products. The subject of this review does not have an age statement so we really don’t know what we’re looking at there. However, I’d guess something in the 5-7 year range (note: a faithful reader caught my lazy research to note this is 8-9 years according to Wild Turkey). What we do know is that RRSBSB is non-chill filtered, retaining all of the fatty acids and flavor carriers for the drinker to enjoy. To me – that’s a great thing! In addition we know that Wild Turkey puts their distillate in the barrel at a lower proof point than most all over bourbon distillers (55% abv or 110 proof). That’s neither good nor bad, but rather a philosophy that a distillery can deploy to their desired profile factoring in time and where the barrels will age in the warehouse.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with it why don’t we?

Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon, 55% abv (110 Proof), $50/bottle
Color: Deep Amber (richly hued and dark)
Nose: Rich caramel, toffee, creamy vanilla, dried apricots, and honey are backed with a healthy dose of wood spices (cinnamon and clove), crushed rock, and barrel. The nose is closed at first but opens beautifully with some air time and a splash of water.
Palate: Bold and bracing character with a bit of a sweet streak to round things out. Creamy on the palate with caramel and vanilla. The spices erupt (cinnamon and clove) with charred barrel notes leading to the finish.
Finish: Lots of warmth, spice, and a moderate lingering sweetness.
Overall: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel is an outstanding whiskey – especially if bold, spicy bourbons with a heavy punch of barrel/wood notes are your thing. Not as balanced as some of the other offerings from Wild Turkey, and not quite as fruity, but that didn’t deter from my enjoyment. At 110 proof it takes a couple splashes very well, which helps to calm the storm a bit. Bottom line, this is bourbon worth buying if the flavor profile suits your tastes.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Superb/Outstanding)