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Review: St. George Single Malt Whiskey 30th Anniversary Edition

St. George Spirits has been making Single Malt Whiskey consistently longer than any distillery in the United States. For those new to perhaps the country’s best craft distillery, check out my previous postings and an article I wrote for Dominic Roskrow’s World Whiskey Review. Each of these articles gives a bit more background on the distillery and their whiskey program.

What’s really unique about St. George’s single malt is their aging process. Specifically, they use a variety of barrels and ages to create a whiskey that retains the distillery’s DNA of complex fruit and roasted/toasted malt, but also has slight variances from release to release.

A mere 715 bottles make up the distillery’s 30th anniversary single malt release. The whiskey is comprised of some of the oldest whiskey stocks finished in a barrel that previously held pear brandy. St. George began making eau de vie, particularly pear, when the distillery opened in 1982. The flagship spirit was actually a pear brandy, so this release is a bit of a nod to the distilleries early days.

It’s worth noting that in October of 2011 I was at the distillery and had the opportunity to try a 14 year old single malt that was barrel proof, deep chocolate in color, and had the viscosity of berry syrup. It was one of the best sips of whiskey I had all year. In short, I can absolutely attest to the depth, complexity, and greatness of some of St. George’s stocks. Let’s take a look a closer look at this limited release whiskey.

St. George Single Malt Whiskey 30th Anniversary Edition, Bottle 689/715, 47.3% alcohol (94.6 proof), $400
Nose: Redolent with bright, fresh fruit aromas – honeydew, lush pear, and lemon-lime enriched with nutty toffee, vanilla cream, roasted nuts, and cocoa.
Palate: Ripe orchard fruits (Pear), lemon drops, candied ginger, and almond toffee.
Finish: The finish is full of roasted malt and nuts – long and lingering to balance out the sweetness on the nose and palate.
Overall To describe this whiskey as easy drinking is an understatement. I’ve burned through this bottle like Sherman through Atlanta. Don’t add a drop of anything to this – just pour and enjoy. The price is WAY up there considering I rated the Lot 10 Single Malt a 9.2. It is a limited release of 715 bottles for the lucky few that are able to score one. My advice – grab a bottle of the Lot 12 that was released earlier in the year. Perhaps not quite as honed and elegant as the 30th anniversary, but at $60-65, your wallet will thank you.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.6 (Epic)

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.