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Single Barrel Bourbon Comparison: Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farm, and Kentucky Spirit

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel Bourbon, 50.5% abv (101 Proof), $45-50
Background: Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit sits at the top of Wild Turkey Distillery’s (Lawrenceburg, KY) primary line of products. Not including some of their limited releases of course. The Wild Turkey hallmark is a spicy rye character that is quite prevalent (albeit in varying degrees) throughout the range. Jimmy Russell, a bourbon icon, and his son Eddie are the Master Distillers at Wild Turkey.
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Crushed rock, leather, and dry oak at the front with dried banana, vanilla, herbs, and rye to follow. Maple syrup increasingly more prevalent with air time.
Flavor: This one is almost dry and crisp throughout the sip. It starts spicy with peppery heat and a rye-heavy punch. Hard caramel candy sweetness struggles through just gripping oak takes it to the finish.
Finish: Long and spicy with a bit of corn and toasted, dry oak.
Overall: The nose is fantastic, bringing some aromas that don’t present themselves very often in other bourbons. On the palate it leans heavily towards dry and spicy, so if you are a fan of this type of flavor profile, Kentucky Spirit will please you.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.6 (Very Good/Excellent)
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Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon, 46.5% abv (93 Proof), $45-50
Background: Produced by Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, KY, Blanton’s was the bourbon that started the single barrel craze in the early 1980’s. It’s disputed by some noted historians and industry figures as to whether it was the first Single Barrel, but nobody can dispute that it was the first to really achieve commercial success. Others took note and quickly followed. It’s named after Colonel Albert Bacon Blanton, a former George T. Stagg Distillery (now Buffalo Trace) president. His favorite bourbon came from Warehouse H, which is where Blanton’s barrels are selected today. We owe Elmer T. Lee for getting Blanton’s released. At his urging, the distillery agreed to release this bourbon to the public in 1984. It is made using Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2.
Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Corn, apples and apricots, cinnamon, rye, and a little caramel sweetness adds weight.
Flavor: Corn, orchard fruits (apples, peaches), bracing rye spice, and the bitterness of charred wood.
Finish: Baking spices, fruit, maple syrup, and barrel yield a moderate length finish.
Overall: Blanton’s is a wonderful expression of a rye recipe bourbon full of grain and barrel aromas and flavors. It is also accessible and relatively easy drinking. My only complaint is Blanton’s flattens a bit on the palate. I would love to see this at barrel proof as Colonel Blanton used to sip it. Buffalo Trace, are you listening?
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)
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Rock Hill Farm Single Barrel Bourbon, 50% abv (100 Proof), $45-50
Background: Rock Hill Farm is a Single Barrel bourbon made by Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, KY. Like Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farm is made using Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2.
Color: Deep Golden/Amber
Nose: Corn, honey, apple cider, a sprinkle of rye, mint, and wet oak. What a fantastic nose this is, and with fruit and corn prevailing and enough oak and spice character to keep it lively.
Flavor: Again we have corn right from the fore, loads of honey, rye, peppery bite, burned sugar, maple, and again that apple note.
Finish: Moderate length -fruity with caramel and peppery spice.
Overall: Rock Hill Farm is a tremendous bourbon that really doesn’t get its due. It has depth and layers of flavor that Blanton’s didn’t quite measure up to. More than anything I enjoyed the balance of grain and fruit that shines through.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Outstanding/Superb)

Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon Review


Booker Noe was Jim Beam’s grandson. He was also the master distiller at his grandfather’s namesake operation for 40+ years until his death in 2004. In 1987, Booker introduced what is now one of Jim Beam’s flagship products, Booker’s Bourbon. Named after the man himself, this massive bourbon is aged on the 5th and 6th floors of a nine-story aging warehouse, which is the “heart” of the facility. It’s an uncut, unfiltered, barrel proof bourbon. This means the barrels are hand selected, batched, and then bottled with no additional water or chill filtration, allowing all of the flavor carriers in the bourbon to remain. Booker Noe wanted this bourbon to be pretty darn pure and unadulterated. Mission accomplished.

Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon, 63.70% abv (127.4 Proof), $50 (Batch #C03-I-16)

Color: Deep Dark Amber/Copper

Nose: Tight nose to start due to such a high alcohol content. It yields with 5-10 minutes of air time. Dry cedar, oak and vanilla hit first, followed by dark caramel, molasses, candied orange, a punch of rye, and cocoa. There’s a fruity quality to the nose as well that’s tough to pin down but quite prevalent.

Flavor: Grab the reigns and hold on tight – the flavors are so concentrated and intense. First there is a hefty dose of spice accentuated by the alcohol punch. Pepper and rye are anchored w/ rich caramel, vanilla, dried golden fruits, barrel char, and bitter orange. Oak integration is excellent. It’s much more in balance than its small batch brother from Knob Creek. Add a couple of splashes of water (if required) to calm things down a bit.

Finish: Long and as bold as the sip with more peppery bite, caramelized nuts, and some resiny oak.

Overall: Man, what a whiskey. I was honestly caught of guard by how fabulous this batch of Booker’s turned out to be. Over time I’ve noticed inconsistencies batch to batch, but when it’s on, Booker’s is as good as bourbon gets. Few bourbons capture sweetness, spice, fruit, and oak so well in their delivery. It’s a fitting homage to one of Bourbon History’s larger than life Icons.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Outstanding/Superb)

New or Notable Whiskey List

This is definitely my shortest post ever. I’m never brief, so this is a first for me.

I thought it might be helpful to put together an ever evolving list of some of the new and notable whiskeys that I’ve had lately. This has been suggested by a few visitors, but I’m just getting around to it. Some whiskey on the list might have received a strong review from me. Others may be whiskeys I’ve yet to fully review but still impressed me. With new American Whiskeys hitting the market every month, this list is what has my attention most. I fully intend to add additional lists as well over time.

So with that, here’s the Whiskey List. It will sit in the top navigation from here onward. I appreciate any and all feedback. If this is not a helpful resource please let me hear it.

Drink your whiskey!

-Jason

Bourbon Review Comparison: W.L. Weller and Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year

W.L. Weller 12 Year Bourbon, $25, 45%abv (90 Proof)

Color: Deep Amber/Copper

Nose: Caramel and Butterscotch, ripe banana, candied almonds, flint, and toasted oak.

Flavor: Buttery, rich, and sweet. Butterscotch, vanilla custard, baking spices, and oak resin breaks up the sweetness

Finish: Toffee and warm, soft cinnamon spice.

Overall: An excellent wheated bourbon at an even better price. Soft, sweet, and rich with enough oak and spice to keep things from becoming too syrupy. This is a big big step up from W.L. Weller 7 year 107 Proof. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Outstanding/Superb)

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Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year Old Bourbon (Lot B), $50, 45.2%abv (90.4 Proof)

Color: Deep Amber/Copper

Nose: Butterscotch, banana pudding, toasted pecans, and buttered cinnamon toast with a rising wave of oak.

Flavor: Absolutely stunning mouth feel – silky and velvety. Tastes of puddle of butterscotch sauce over vanilla ice cream. It’s sweet and concentrated and then quickly cut with pretty strong dry cinnamon spice and some oaky astringency that interplays wonderfully with the sweetness.

Finish: Butterscotch, cinnamon candy, and some bitter char remain on the finish.

Overall: A seriously great bourbon whiskey. Like the Weller 12 it’s sweet, buttery, and rich, but this one ramps up interest significantly with more spice and barrel. Is it worth the price increase? Well that’s for you to decide, but it’s an outstanding pour. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Outstanding/Superb)

Angel’s Envy Bourbon Review

Angel’s Envy is a new Bourbon Whiskey from industry veteran, Lincoln Henderson. As the retired former Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve, Lincoln has done some fantastic things for bourbon and American Whiskey. It’s also interesting to note that three generations of Henderson’s are involved with Angel’s Envy. Their first release is upon us so let’s discuss it.

What makes Angel’s Envy different? It’s a bourbon of at least 4 years of age (reportedly around 5-7 years) that’s been batched and then finished in large port barrels (or “port pipes”) imported from Portugal. After the bourbon takes a slumber in the traditional charred new oak barrels, it’s dumped into the port barrels until Lincoln deems it ready for bottling (reportedly 3-6 months). The result is one of the fruitiest and effortlessly drinkable whiskeys on the market today.

Angel’s Envy Bourbon, $44, 43.3%abv (86.6 Proof)

Color: Deep copper /Russet

Nose: Incredible aromas! Intense Maple Syrup, sweet corn, vanilla, candied dried fruits, rum soaked berries, and gentle oakyness.

Flavor: Maple syrup, corn, dates, raisins, and clove coat the palate. There’s a ripe plum/grapey flavor that adds a fresh fruitiness.

Finish: Sweet maple, toffee, hints of soft spices, and a lingering fruitiness remain.

Overall: Angel’s Envy is a fun whiskey to sip and savor. It’s ever so smooth, sweet, and fruity – definitely one of the best pours I’ve had this year. The nose for me is the star of this show – a real masterclass. It may be just a tad light on the palate, which has me anxiously awaiting their (reported) barrel strength release at the end of the year. Regardless, this is mighty fine bourbon. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Outstanding/Superb)

Note: Sample provided by Angel’s Envy

Buffalo Trace Bourbon Review


Buffalo Trace Bourbon, 45% abv (90 Proof), $20

Buffalo Trace doesn’t need much introduction. It is a very popular, top selling bourbon whiskey at a great price. The folks at BT are responsible for producing some of the finest American Whiskey on the market today, including a wide array of bourbon brands as well as rye whiskey. Buffalo Trace has 2 primary bourbon mash bills (grain recipes) not including their wheated bourbon and rye recipes. Mash Bill #1 is the recipe of choice for George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare, Old Charter and others. Mash Bill #2 has a higher percentage of rye and is used for Elmer T. Lee, Blanton’s, and Rock Hill Farm to name a few. While it’s not certain what the exact percentages of corn and rye are, having a number of different mash bills affords Buffalo Trace a great deal of flexibility. Let’s not forget about their namesake product (mash #1), Buffalo Trace……….

Color: Light Amber/Deep Golden

Nose: A complex arrangement in spite of the price. Bright corn graininess, vanilla, golden dried fruits, and tobacco are lifted with a hint of rye, oak, and mint.

Palate: Sharp and lively. The front entry is sweet corn, vanilla, a prickle of rye spice, and a crackle of burnt sugar. The sip moves swiftly toward drying from mid palate on to the finish, with a fantastic toasted oak flavor. There’s a gentle bitterness as well that adds interest. This is not a cloyingly sweet, thick, syrupy whiskey, but rather quite elegant in it’s delivery.

Finish: The finish is more of what started mid-sip; moderate length with bitter char, toasty oak, licorice, and mint.

Overall: I have to remind myself I am drinking $20.00 whiskey when I drink this stuff. It just tastes much pricier. I consider it one of the finest values in whiskey because of that. It’s not ridiculously sweet and flabby like other less expensive bourbons typically are. What I enjoyed most about it was the sharp, bright, graininess without tasting rough and raw. It’s pretty refined stuff and very well made. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.5 (Very Good/Excellent)