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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)

Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey Review


Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey, 45% abv (90 Proof), $25

Bulleit 95 Rye is the latest product from Bulleit Distilling Co. Owned by Diageo, Bulleit doesn’t technically distill its Bourbon or their new Rye. They contract with other distilleries to produce both of these whiskeys (the bourbon is made at Four Roses). The new 95 Rye gets its name from the 95% rye grain mash bill from Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI). Originally meant to be used as a blending whiskey, a number of bottlers have begun contracting or purchasing “juice” from LDI to independently bottle. This is the latest to do so, and it’s one of the best.

Color: Deep Golden

Nose: Pungent aroma of gin botanicals, pine needles, fresh lemon zest and honey, ground cinnamon, clove. Bit of mint in the background

Palate: The gin botanicals never leave for long, are spiked with white pepper, hot cinnamon, chili, and wrapped around a moderately sweet core of vanilla infused honey and burned sugar.

Finish: Dry, peppery spice, juniper, and fresh clean oak. A wave of warmth and cinnamon spice remains.

Overall: Bulleit 95 Rye is a welcomed addition to the Rye Whiskey world. Like much of the LDI whiskeys out there, it’s distinct, well made, and delivers great rye flavor. It could do well with a touch more sweetness and weight, but it keeps you coming back for more with an array of high notes and spicy flavors. Factor in the $25 price tag and there’s a lot of value here. This rye sips perfectly well on its own and will shine in cocktails where the whiskey is the star.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

Does whiskey go bad?

I have mentioned Steve Ury’s (Sku) website, RecentEats, before. His site covers a lot of ground about whiskey (global) and food – it’s always a great read. Steve’s post today was exceptional. He did an experiment for a number of years to determine if open whiskey deteriorated over time. Check it out HERE.

My take: I’ve communicated about this topic with many of you. I believe strongly that whiskey does deteriorate if left in half empty (or less) bottles for extended periods of time. It’s not unlike fruit that is left to over ripen on a kitchen counter. The whiskey softens, loses structure, and the spice and bite is reduced tremendously. In short, the character and integrity is altered some.

What can you do about it? I try to consume open bottles within 3-4 months. It’s a great reason to invite some friends over and share a good bottle. But what if you can’t do that? My next suggestion is to purchase 4oz and 2oz Boston Round bottles with screw caps. You can purchase them from companies like Specialty Bottle on the internet. All you need beyond that are some labels and a small funnel from a kitchen supply store.

Once you consume opened bottles down to half or less, simply funnel into a couple of 4oz and/or 2oz bottles. You’ll have to eyeball it, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. If you have an ounce left over, well I’m sure you’ll figure out something to do with it. ; ) Once you’ve re-bottled, simply label it so you’ll know you’re drinking Elijah Craig 12 Year Old (or whatever) months or years later. I also place a date on the label so I can inventory accordingly. That sounds complicated but it’s really not.

The investment is pretty small (approximately $10 for 20 2oz bottles) and it will keep you from blazing through stock. And obviously the bottles are easily reused after a thorough washing. Be certain to dry completely and quickly to prevent mildew from ruining your whiskey. The other nice benefit is the 2oz bottles are a convenient single serving size.

Kudo’s to Steve for going to great lengths for this experiment. That’s what I call dedication! It also deserves “Whiskey Public Service Announcement” designation.

Cheers!

Buffalo Trace’s Quest for Whiskey Perfection

Is there a such thing as the perfect whiskey? If so, then Buffalo Trace believes they know how to make it.

Last week I posted about David Driscoll’s K&L Wines podcast with Buffalo Trace Master Distiller, Harlen Wheatley. If you listened to it (and love whiskey) then I bet you sat up in your chair when Harlen mentioned the mind blowing products coming from Buffalo Trace in April. It was a mere whisper of information with very little detail. In fact I’ve been doing research since trying to figure out what’s coming our way. Information is scarce.

Well, Jason Wilson of The Washington Post has published an article that might be a follow up to that little nugget of info from Harlen. You can check out the article here.

To summarize, Buffalo Trace has gone to great lengths to identify what makes up the “perfect bourbon”. They’ve compiled ratings from top publications, identified which levels and aisles of their aging facilities produce the best whiskey, and which distillation factors make the biggest impact. According to Buffalo Trace CEO Mark Brown, they even have a name for all of this due diligence, “Project Holy Grail”. As in the quest for the perfect whiskey.

Let’s hope we find out sooner rather than later what Buffalo Trace has in store for us. Frankly, I’ll settle for *close* to perfect and be just fine. I’m having way too much fun to see the quest to come to an end.