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Review: 2012 Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon

The 2012 Parker’s Heritage Collection (PHC) is a blend of Heaven Hill’s rye-based (Evan Williams mashbill) and wheat-based (Old Fitzgerald/Larceny) bourbon. Put together, the whiskey is an assembly of four grains. This year’s release has large shoes to fill. The 2011 PHC was finished in Cognac barrels and received a 9.6 rating on Sour Mash Manifesto. It was without question one of my top 3-4 whiskeys of the year.

2012 Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon, 65.8% abv (131.6 Proof), $80/bottle
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Caramel, demerara sugar, and vanilla wrapped around golden raisin with hints of ground cinnamon and ginger.
Palate: Sharp yet concentrated and syrupy on the palate -caramel syrup, sorghum, vanilla, cinnamon toast and moderate heat.
Finish: Long and lingering – sorghum and caramel sweetness with a roasty/toasty quality and rising warmth. Beautiful finish.
Overall: Not quite the uniqueness and level of quality of 2011′s cognac barrel finished bourbon, but the 2012 PHC is an excellent whiskey. The blend of rye-based and wheated bourbon don’t fight one another, but instead achieve a nice harmony. Maybe even a bit too much harmony.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Excellent)

Review: Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year Bourbon

Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year small batch bourbon is perhaps one of the most requested whiskey reviews I get asked about. So this one is a long time coming. The answer to the question of whether or not this is actual Stitzel-Weller bourbon is simple. Yes – this is from the same distillery that started the Van Winkle line. The distillery is known for their wheated bourbon mashbill, which is absent any rye grain. Below are my tasting notes on this old wheater.

Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year Bourbon, Batch 13, 47% abv (94 Proof), $80/bottle
Color: Deep Amber/Copper
Nose: A heady mix of rum soaked dried fruits (raisin, dates), pancake syrup, toasted almonds, caramelized banana, vanilla wafers, old leather, and oak. Air time ramps up the wood influence quite a bit.
Palate: Toffee, fig preserves, vanilla, and heaps of oak and resiny grip.
Finish: Toffee sweetness, rich fruit, and wood make for a marvelous ending.
Overall: Jefferson’s 18 year old bourbon certainly packs a complex and flavorful punch. It’s layered with rich, sweet aromas and flavors. The whiskey drinks its age with a heavy wood influence, but the results can only be described as a superb whiskey. Highly recommended.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Superb/Outstanding)

Review: Cedar Ridge Bourbon Whiskey

Cedar Ridge bourbon is made by Cedar Ridge Vineyards & Distillery in Swisher, Iowa. The distillery began distilling bourbon in July 2010. All of the distillation and aging is done in small batches, and aged on premises. The distillery also produces a number of brandies, grappa, and liquers in their distilled spirits portfolio.

Let’s take a closer look at this Iowa bourbon.

Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon Whiskey, 40% abv (80 Proof), $37/bottle
Color: Light Amber/Golden/Honey
Nose: Anise, clove, juniper, pineapple, golden raisin, and cedar shavings. Youthful and bright.
Palate: A bit flat but pleasant – rock candy sweetness, clove, and nutmeg.
Finish: Juniper, clove, wood resin grip, and honey sweetness.
Overall: Cedar Ridge is a promising craft product. One sniff and sip and it’s clear the distillery is going for a lighter, brighter flavor profile – much like Koval out of Chicago. From that standpoint it’s unique and different from the onset. The distillery’s grappa and brandy roots are present as well. Frankly I am surprised this is 75% corn in the mashbill – the green rye notes come through well on both the nose and the palate. It’s certainly young, but that funky new make “craft” thing is not present here (that’s a good thing!). The distillate is clean and well made, but it needs more age and proof to add needed depth and richness. I am however intrigued and looking forward to future releases of this bourbon.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.6 (Good)

Review: Woodford Reserve Four Wood Bourbon

Last Tuesday I posted about the latest release as a part of Woodford Reserve’s annual Master’s Collection release. For more insight on this release please check out the post here.

I received an advanced sample of this new whiskey. Here are my thoughts

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Four Wood Bourbon, 47.2% abv (94.4 Proof), $99/bottle
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Sweet and fruity – butter pecan, maple and toffee meets lush ripe orchard fruits (peach,, golden delicious apple, and muscadine jelly). An almost floral oak aroma adds interest.
Palate: Rustic, youthful, and corn laden up front on the palate. Maple and butter pecan flavors add needed sweetness before a drying oak tannin builds. The fruit hints at showing but never quite breaks through.
Finish: Buttered corn, maple sweetness, and bitter tannin.
Overall: Four Wood begins with an epic bang. The nose is absolutely phenomenal with lush fruit and candy shop sweets everywhere. It’s truly gorgeous and as unique a nose in all of whiskey. And that’s where things sort of get all wobbly. The palate is a patchwork of disjointed flavors with awkward transitions through the sip on to the finish. Frankly it’s a bit of a mess – not without some high points, but never coming together. It tastes a lot more youthful than standard Woodford. What I’m left with is too much of the toasted maple wood dryness on the palate and not enough of the fruit and lushness that the nose demonstrates. It’s not bad whiskey, in fact it begins (as I noted) with a boom, but it finishes with a flutter. Not something I’d recommend at this price. I’m a fan of Woodford Reserve. It gets piled on by enthusiasts but I’ve always felt it’s a very good, quality bourbon. The Master’s Collection releases however come across as a complete money grab by Brown-Forman. That I cannot get behind.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.2 (Good)

Woodford releases new “Four Wood” Bourbon

Each year Woodford Reserve releases a limited edition whsikey as a part of their Master’s Collection. The collection refers to Master Distiller, Chris Morris’s utilization, or focus, on one of five components in the whiskey making process – grain, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation.

The latest Master’s Collection release is Four Wood Bourbon, which is mature Woodford Reserve (which ages in new oak barrels like all bourbon) that is put through a “finishing” process (additional maturation/aging) in Maple Wood, Port Wood, and Sherry Wood barrels. It’s not known as of yet, where the Port and Sherry barrels were sourced, but I’m going to try to find out. Each of these barrels were married together in varied proportions to create the finished bourbon.

I must admit that I’ve had very mixed experiences with the Master’s Collection products. At their best the whiskeys have been “very good” (Maple Wood Finish), and at their worst (last year’s Rare Rye) they’ve been terrible. At a retail price of $99.99, there’s some risk involved for the consumer.

This Four Wood Bourbon however has me very intrigued. I should point out that I’m “bought in” on the whole “finished whiskey” thing that has caught on with distillers and independent bottlers in recent years. Is it gimmicky sounding? Perhaps. But there’s no question that finishing in Port wood barrels moved Angel’s Envy from a merely good bourbon to something of definite merit. Last years Parker’s Heritage Collection, which was finished in cognac barrels was downright superb – one of my highest rated whiskeys of the year. Hooker’s House, a bourbon finished in pinot noir barrels, didn’t disappoint either. In short – my experiences with many of these finished whiskeys has been good.

Each bottle of Four Wood will be offered at 750M, retail at $99.99, and at 94.4 proof. Will Four Wood set a higher standard for the Master’s Collection series? I’m expecting to try it within the next week – my thoughts and review will follow soon after.

Review: Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel came out in May of this year. Unfortunately I was unable to get a bottle here in the Nashville area until August. Four Roses has three standard products – the “Yellow” label, Small Batch, and Single Barrel bourbon. The later is a top value pour in my book, but I usually can’t wait to see what the distillery puts out in their Limited Edition releases each Spring. With 10 recipes for which to choose from, Four Roses has near limitless options at their disposal.

This years release is the OESK mashbill, the distillery’s lower rye recipe at 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley. The “K” in the designation stands for the yeast strain – which amplifies and enhances the spice aromas and flavors in the whiskey. For anyone suspect to Four Roses’ claims, trust me when I say, “yeast matters!”. Having spent some time with Jim Rutledge nosing and tasting every recipe, yeast is possibly the most under-appreciated “flavor factor” in whiskey making.

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon, 55.6% abv (111.2Proof), $69/bottle
Barrel Info: Barrel 81-3E, aged 12 years
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Big plumes of maple and barrel sugars, peanut brittle, nougat, peach preserves, hints of cinnamon, and old wood. One of the best noses of the year – unreal.
Palate: Maple, brown sugar, caramel apple, and a swift uppercut of spice notes (cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili flake).
Finish: Long and lingering warmth, spices, and maple sweetness.
Overall: For me it’s a top 5 whiskey of the year at this stage. The “K” yeast strain’s spicy influence elevates a sweet and fruity pour. What impresses me most about Four Roses is their bourbons are unlike any other distillery, at their best achieving a great balance of sweetness, spice, and fruit. The 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel is superb with added depth. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s well worth the price of admission. Here’s my suggestion: while most lament the fact that they missed a Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskey, just walk into your local shop, grab this and smile knowing you have something at least as good.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.5 (Superb)