Review: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year

Jim Beam Signature Craft is a 12 year old small batch bourbon that was released in 2013. I’m really over the terms “craft” and “artisan” to describe whiskey or anything else, but I digress. One thing I like from the start is the screw cap. Folks, there’s little wrong with a screw cap. A cork coated in a 1/4 inch of wax (with an ill designed pull tab) is overrated. I do enjoy being able to open the bottle easily.

Let’s get to it……

Beam Signature CraftJim Beam Signature Craft Small Batch Bourbon (12 Years), 43% abv (86 Proof), $40
Color: Medium Amber/Copper
Nose: Toffee, vanilla, cherry liqueur, cinnamon, and rich oak.
Palate: Right on point with the nose – caramel, spiced honey, cherry syrup and cinnamon spice. Nice backbone of oak throughout the sip.
Finish: Toasted almond, dried fruits, vanilla, and toasted oak.
Overall: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 year is really well done. It’s harmonious, balanced and quite elegant (easy drinking too!). My one knock is the fact that it could be a bit under-proofed. However, considering Knob Creek Small Batch is in the lineage (and its a bit too oak driven to me), perhaps they got the proof just right with Signature Craft 12 year. It’s a beautiful whiskey.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.9 Superb)

Review: Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a high rye (recipe) bourbon that’s……well, the grand-dad to the 100 proof Bottled-In-Bond (BIB) version I reviewed a couple years ago. As I noted in that review, the “Granddad” pays homage to Basil Hayden. Mr. Hayden was well known for favoring more rye in his bourbon mashbill than was common (even today). While we don’t know the exact percentage of rye, it’s up there. The brand is owned, distilled and bottled by Beam.

Let me say before tucking in – it’s comforting to get the reviews flowing with something that is available to most, and a reasonable (sub $30) price point.

old-grand-dad-114-lOld Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon (Bottled in Bond), 57% abv (114 Proof), $28
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: This bourbon’s attitude is airy and effervescent even at full strength. Orange rind, burned sugars, honey, southern spearmint, touches of floral (orange blossom, honeysuckle) notes and grain (corn and dry rye). Pour and leave in the glass for a good 3-4 minutes. The initial alcohol blast quickly subsides and you can get to business.
Palate: Brief notes of honey, bitter orange, caramel and vanilla yield to warming spices (cinnamon, mint, white pepper). Barrel flavors and a bit of resiny grip lead to the finish.
Finish: Lingering finish of toasty oak, orange, and caramel sweetness.
Overall: OGD 114 is a very good bourbon and it’s different. It’s one of those whiskeys, like the 100, that you just don’t taste all the time. It’s NOT a heavy whiskey in terms of nose and flavor, but the proof nips in spots. Water is your friend, and it’s easily to dial this one into a comfort zone for you.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.7 Very Good/Excellent)

Review: James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon (15 Year)

Thank you for your patience with me and my “time” excuses. I hope things are well with all of you and that you’ve been sipping some excellent whiskey. While I’ve not been posting about it, I sure have! Again, thanks for your patience as I work through many reviews.

Today let’s take a look at James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon, a 15 year old whiskey bottled by James E. Pepper & Co, but distilled by the folks at MGP in Lawrenceburg Indiana. It’s interesting that the folks at James E. Pepper were able to secure such old stock, but age isn’t anything but a number. How does this juice taste…..

James E. Pepper 15James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Bourbon (15 Years), Barrel 46% abv (92 proof), $100/bottle
Color: Deep Amber/Copper
Nose: Quite light and restrained for a 15 year old – very elegant. Sweet caramel, golden apple, and vanilla cover much of any barrel notes. Hints of clove and soft mint (rye) perk up with more time.
Palate: Again, light and elegant. Brittle caramel and barrel spices prickle on the tongue. Vanilla and a baked apple fruitiness as well. Finishes a tad flat. With a splash of water the spice notes are more pronounced, the soft sweetness lessens.
Overall: This is a very good whiskey, if not a touch flat. Tasted blind I’d never guess this was 15 years old. It has aged gracefully, perhaps somewhere shielded from the extremes. Overall it’s balanced and composed from sniff to sip, but it carries a big price tag.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.5 (Very Good)

Review: Henry McKenna Single Barrel (BIB) Bourbon

Happy New Year all. Once again I deeply appreciate everyone’s patience with me the last 6-8 months. Posts and reviews have been sparse, and I’m working hard to get things rolling on Sour Mash Manifesto. Thanks for sticking with the site.

Now, let’s get 2014 started off with a new review of a Heaven Hill brand, Henry McKenna Single Barrel (10 year old) Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Whiskey. Henry McKenna was said to have brought his family’s whiskey recipe from Ireland in the 1830’s, and established a distillery in Kentucky in 1855. Heaven Hill procured the Henry McKenna brand from Seagrams and began producing this whiskey in the mid 90’s. Let’s take a further look shall we?

Henry-McKenna-HMSB-copyHenry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled In Bond Bourbon (10 Years), Barrel #1025, 50% abv (100 proof), $30/bottle
Color: Deep Amber/Russet
Nose: Caramel, golden raisin, rustic corn, vanilla, root beer, and firm oak.
Palate: Classic bourbon flavors of caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, golden fruits with some spicy zip (cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper). Sturdy oak backbone provides some structure. Concentrated, sharp with a beautiful mouth feel.
Overall: This is a satisfyingly delicious bourbon – straight forward in delivery, and rich with rustic character. There’s a healthy dose of spice and heat on the palate to give this bourbon a little pop as well. If you enjoy the Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage dated releases – this 10 year old Henry McKenna has similar DNA, albeit with just a tad less finesse and grace. Outstanding value.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Very Good)

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)

Thanks Bob!

What a crazy couple of months it has been. Between running a growing staffing firm and trying to corral three beautiful, active girls, I’m learning just how tough managing it all can be. But who isn’t busy right?

I just have to say thanks to Robert Parker, noted wine expert and writer, for digging me out of my hole a little sooner than I anticipated this week. Frequent readers know I’m a fan K&L Wine’s blog, Spirit Journal, written predominantly by David Driscoll. David’ post from yesterday has more than a few bourbon writers/bloggers puzzled. You can check it out here.

I’ll summarize by simply saying that Robert Parker felt compelled to go on a bourbon “conquest” for us all. That is correct. One of the foremost experts on wine decided to lock down bourbon and rye whiskey in a nice, tidy list.

Tim Read over at Scotch and Ice Cream had a strong take on Parker’s efforts. Chuck Cowdery did as well. I can’t wait to read Sku’s that is surely coming down the pipe (no pressure Steve!).

Obviously, Robert Parker is well known and clearly accomplished, but I am more than a bit surprised at his audacity. You might say, “Jason this man clearly has a great palate and a rolodex of descriptors to boot.” I’d agree…..when it comes to wine. Ask yourself if a man, regardless of his resume, knows the brown stuff if he is compelled to state this “shocker”:

“To tell you the truth, I have never been a big fan of liquor, but I was blown away by the quality of the top bourbons. They are every bit as good as a great cognac or Armagnac … and I’m not kidding!

For another laugh, check out his notes on Blanton’s, where he remarks that its either “a masterful blend or a bourbon of serious age.” You all of course know that it’s neither. In addition, The curious arrangement of whiskeys he chose to talk about also made me scratch my head a little. Experimentals mixed with some middle shelf stuff, a dash of the highly lauded releases, and a sprinkle of micro for good measure. To me it ended up an odd collection.

Of course there’s no law against Parker’s foray into “liquor”. It also doesn’t upset me in the least. In fact he’s shown a lot of balls tackling something he clearly knows only a wee bit about. Hmmm – Grapevine Manifesto has a ring to it.

One thing Parker and I do agree on: “Drink your bourbon!”