Saturday, December 21, 2013

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch and 2013 125th Anniversary Small Batch

12/21/13 Four Roses 2012 Small Batch (55.7) and Four Roses 125th Anniversary Small Batch (51.6)

2012: 17 year old OBSV, 11 year old OBSV, 12 year old OBSK and 12 year old OESK. 4,062 bottles.

125th (2013): 18 year OBSV, 13 Year OBSK, 13 Year OESK, 12468 Bottles


2012: Four Roses style mulling spice and pepper are turned on overdrive. Fairly subtle vanilla and honey notes, and hints of very old (but not musty) oak, cherries, all finished by a sweeter side of the rye profile.

125th: Noticeably dry right off the 2012. Brine, tobacco, again some of that allspice mulled cider type spice. More wood flavor is evident in the nosing profile of the 125th. This smells much more reminiscent of the off the shelf small batch, if the SmB was a barrel strength special edition.


2012: Four Roses barrel sugars, bright cherries, and that textbook floral explosion of different bright yeast notes that I come to expect from this distillery.  The 12 year OBSK (the same as the 2013 single barrel) really impacts some flavor on this one. Maybe a little overproofed to drink at Barrel Strength, but wouldn’t need much water. This bottling does a good job of capturing the bright, eclectic spicy/floral profile that I have experienced so much in the past with four roses. Textbook.

125th: Building dry rye spice complemented with the lightest tobacco, that is driven remarkably towards the finish. No detours. A floral-noted rye note that is sharpened and drives straight towards the back of your mouth with nothing else to think about. At this point it’s more beneficial to note what’s not there -- everything is directed towards the dry spice. Oak is tamed (there’s a 17 year in here, remember), corn oils have submitted, and even a lot of the trademark Four Roses cherry/pepper potpourri is pulled out. Notes should be taken about a 51.6% ABV of a barrel strength product.


2012: Some light tongue tingling complements the notes of the initial tasting. No flavor note transitions. Moderate oil and barrel strength mouthfeel. Moderate length in relation to the 125.

125th: The flavors of the taste meld perfectly into the finish. It’s long and unsurprisingly dry. Some unfiltered oils can be detected and the mouthfeel is light.

Balance: My favorite distillery delivers on two fabulous products that side-by-side are remarkably different, but both capture different aspects of why I like 4R so much. The intense floral notes of the 2012 and the dry vanilla and tobacco rye notes of the 125th are both just great in a bottle. Four Roses LEs may possibly be my favorite in the industry as they often present a balance that a 15+ year old product or a 66%+ barrel strength offering cannot bring to the table.

Stupid letter grades: A and A

Thank God for stock photos

Would I buy again: Yes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

In Which The Boy Goes to The Party Source

What I tasted at The Party Source last night and short notes

I stopped at The Party Source last night. The store is massive. Like supermarket big. Got some good shopping in, too.

Pappy Van Winkle 23: Smoothness and acridity at the same time. A lot of wood with a well developed wheat profile. Not for me.

Parker’s Heritage 1st (Cask Strength 11 year, 3rd release): More HH woody notes than I’d expect from an eleven year. Surprisingly drinkable at bottling strength. Not for me. Taste was similar to ECBP, but easier to drink at proof. I liked ECBP

Pappy Van Winkle 15: Much better than the 23 but still a fair wood profile in the product. I think in the future I would even pass on picking this one up.

Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye: This has to be much older than 13 years. A lot more wood than you’d expect, but finally, I found the balance of wood and rye to be in check. Rye profile was highly matured, without some of those really sweet or excessively dry notes that you’d find in a TH Handy or Bulliet Rye respectively. I would buy this one again. Closest product I’d compare this to is the Sazarac 18

Hirsch 22 Rye: Van Winkle Rye +1 a little more matured than the VW, but tolerable to me. Best of the night.

Take all these notes with a grain of salt. It should be abundantly clear to you by now that high age oak is not my thing. When I have the opportunity to taste small (or free) pours I generally try things that are rarer or things that I think I will not like. At this point I have tried all VW except the 10, and I have a few of those at home, and picked one up last night for 34 bucks. I’d rank the VW as followed VWFRR>PVW20>PVW15>PVW23>ORVW12. Based on my age preference I’m going to speculate the 10 going in to take 1st or 2nd.

If you like a lot of wood in your whiskey these are all solid A’s.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Redbreast Cask Strength

12/2/13 Redbreast Cask Strength 57.7% Batch B1/11

Nose: Dry musty rasins, wet stone, light floral spices. Not a full barley nose, unmalted barley contributes a rye-like note. Complex, strong, full-bodied. I haven’t had a ton of Irish Whiskey but this nose is simply stunning and easily the best Irish nosing I’ve had.

Taste: What I noted first on the palate was the mouthfeel. A full, oily wave washes from the front of your tongue to the back of your palate followed by a fleeting sugary sweetness. This 12 year whiskey feels much older than 12 years in your mouth. The malted and unmalted barley combine with some hints of lightly matured notes and some unexpected, pleasant green notes. Sherry influence is minimal, but some weak oloroso notes can be found in there.

Finish: Weak ex-bourbon vanilla and the return of the green rye-like note. Long, intense finish courtesy of the full strength bottling.

Balance: Full strength, full bodied, full mouthfeel. The style of the time is full strength bottlings and this is a great example of a cask strength done right. Redbreast 12CS has a lot to offer a whiskey drinker of any style. The malted/unmalted blend offers a barley forward profile but a blended feel that reduces that strong barley flavor of a single malt whisky. I would recommend this whiskey to either bourbon or scotch drinkers. There’s something similar to find in the product for either camp.

Stupid letter grade: A

Would I buy again: Yes

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Beam Old Grand Dad and National Distillers Old Grand Dad

11/30/13 Old Grand Dad BIB and National Distillers OGD 86 side by side. By bottle markings on the bottom of the bottle I think this OGD was bottled in 88, but due to the barcode I know it’s from National Distillers.

For more apples to apples I have diluted the bond to 86 proof with my trusty graduated cylinder and Wolfram Alpha.


OGDBIB: The traditional floral, bready jug yeast notes of beam meld with the anise, ginger, and pepper rye notes of this old school high rye bourbon. Wood comes into play well behind the rye notes. Other notes that linger out include canned cherries and flat coke.

NDOGD: Markedly not Beam. No bready bakery yeast. Slightly more astringent, but it’s welcome. The rye notes are sweeter, bigger cherry notes, some vanilla, sweet oak, and black pepper.


OGDBIB:  Again, Beam house style just brands the entire product. Strong sweetened black licorice, light pepper and nutmeg. The downward proof takes the rye notes and that always present Beam DNA and thrusts it out into the middle of the palate; the astringent alcohol notes are not as competitive. Classic water and oil separation mouthfeel that I have noted in the past in tastings of Beam Black.

NDOGD: Cleaner, clearer presentation with a stronger caramel/toffee note that is not present in the modern OGD. Overall the rye notes are again on the sweeter candy side of the spectrum. Corn grain and vanilla seep in at the very end.


OGDBIB: Fleeting rye spice and hints of oak. Oily notes fade fast and a watery, slippery product remains until the end.

NDOGD: A sweet, floral rye quickly and cleanly fades quickly from the experience. Some very late cheap vanilla oil extract bitters hop in there.

Balance: When Beam (Fortune Brands) acquired National Distillers they did more than slap an OGD label on a bottle of Beam White. They kept the at the time non traditional high rye mashbill and bottled a product that was similar to the original. But as we all know there are countless little deviations that make one distillery different than the others. Those little differences make these products reasonably different side by side yet when coming down to it they’re fairly similar in style. If you have to pick one over the other I would let the bias of your priorities decide. If you place value on the past and tradition, consider the National Distillers. If you want to walk into any liquor store today and buy a quality straight bourbon at the price point of a case of part-rice light beer take the Beam OGD. Bottom line, they’re both quality products in their own regards.

I also had a wonderful time trying these side by side with my uncle over Thanksgiving. It was a reminder that good whiskey in the right setting becomes great whiskey.

Stupid letter grades: B+/B+

Would I buy again: BeamOGD Bond: Yes NDOGD: If I find it for the right price yes, if I stumble upon it in a store I’d buy several.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Amrut Fusion

Amrut Fusion 50% B16 Oct 2011

Nose: Delicate highland inspired malt fused with a manageable quantity of peat. Butterscotch and the slightest hint of volatility. There’s also a weird, crisp (but good) pine note. Some weird wisps of immaturity but I would not consider this product to be immature.

Taste: Well balanced peat and malt. Some aromatic, petrol notes similar to Glenmorangie 10 or a similar highland malt. Some light dried apricot notes. Peat is very light but clearly present and provides a balanced profile. The peat itself is lighter style (think Bruichladdich or Bowmore). A slight background of bourbon oak.

Finish: Peat lingers, transfers to a bitter oak with a full mouthfeel, and a light but noticeable tongue and oak interaction. Fleeting and simple. Hot black pepper on the swallow of the product.

Balance: I used to think this bottle of Amrut Fusion was a step off from some really special bottles of Fusion I’ve had in the past. This session held up pretty well, and I ended up liking this bottle a lot more than I did in the past. Fusion does a great job showing an Asian product looking for Scotland for inspiration but showing its local terroir. There was a time where I would say go for Fusion over any other entry level Amrut (anyone out there that wants to send/trade me a Greedy Angels sample would be amazing) but a recent tasting of Amrut Single Malt warrants a strong recommendation of Amrut SM, too.

Stupid Letter Grade: B

Would I buy again: in time, yes.

Special Product Award for ugly label:


Monday, November 11, 2013

Fighting Cock Bourbon

Nose: Heavy Heaven Hill acetone and baking powder. Smaller leather notes, dark fruit, and hint of citrus rind. A hint of warehouse must. Any rye in the nose is masked pretty well behind all that signature Heaven Hill funk.

Taste: Astringent phenolic and acetone note are the center of this taste profile. The traditional HH oak/phenol must is a little more on the oily side. Hints of rye slide out at end of the palate and begin to take over. Reasonably drinkable at botting proof. Only slightly harsh but based on the fact there’s an angry looking rooster on the bottle I think I’m supposed to get a little bite out of the profile. Some of that heavy wood mouthfeel breaks out at the finish.

Finish: At times clean rye and at times musty oak. A nice dichotomy. Some great rye bitters can be found at the tail end of this product. Heavy oak mouthfeel, some off oak notes can sneak in there.

Balance: The bottling age is unique. A fair amount of the wood influence of HH products is dialed back into balance with the rye, corn, and alcohol notes. Those huge astringent notes are hard to recon with in the initial profile. If you’re a huge Heaven Hill fan you might want to try this one out; otherwise this may be a safe bet to pass this one over. But if you don’t like it you’re not going to miss any sleep over how much you paid for it. (I believe this ran me about 17 dollars). Based on the fact that there’s a bird on the label I think you’re supposed to compare this to Wild Turkey. I would say buy the Wild Turkey.

Stupid Letter Grade: C+

Would I buy again: A purchase I really can’t regret, but I wouldn’t buy again.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2013 Old Forrester Birthday Bourbon

11/3/13 Old Forrester 2013 Birthday Bourbon 49%

Nose: The nose is the highlight of the Old Forrester products I’ve tried. There is a considerable medicinal and aromatic profile that has a ‘higher’ nose palate that I could compare to a highland Scotch. The nose is bourbon -- cherry and vanilla oak sweetness forward, followed by a light must and some very hidden rye notes. Remarkably easy to nose at 48% and the age has muted any green notes, but has not contributed any significant, weighted notes.

Taste: Medicinal cherry flavoring and heavy clove. Some significant oak has evaded the nose and complements the bitters and fruits nicely. Traditional rye spice mingles with the wood for a dark chocolate effect. Nose and taste are rather different.

Finish: Dry oak and manhattan bitters take over and the age statement of the bottle contributes to a woody finish. Medicinal notes continue all the way to the dry, delicious end.

Balance: I wasn’t a fan of the 2012 OFBB, I found the phenolic notes to be unbalanced and offsetting. This years has a lot more balance and although it tastes very similar, they are hard to compare. But enough about the others; the 2013 OFBB is an excellent, sweet but balanced bourbon.

Stupid Letter Grade: A

Would I buy again: This is the first bourbon I have ever bunkered.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bowmore Darkest 15 Year 43%

Color: Light copper brown, hopefully from the wood and not from a coloring agent

Nose: Modest amounts of peat complemented by a significant brine and fruity, sherry sweetness. Some sulfuric and woody bitterness. Matchsticks.

Taste: Balanced peat and wood. Iodine and seaweed. A nice mouthfeel that complements the 15 year age statement. Oloroso sherry is mostly covered by the light, bowmore house style peat, but there is some sweetness that breaks out. The bottling proof is nice, not overpowering. The taste is good but it quickly yields to the finish.  

Finish: Sulfur, burnt paper, acrid wood, orange zest. It’s long and bitter, and not my style.

Balance: This would be a middle of the road expression before the finish. The early taste is relatively clean, but the finish is muddling and weird. There are some things I respect about this Islay -- an age statement, clearly expressed wood finish, no stupid gaelic name.

Stupid letter grade: C

Would I buy again: No

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hancock's President's Reserve 88.9 proof

Nose: Whoa, char. Charcoal bricks, soot, matchsticks, and a little more sulfur. Lots of corn and a surprisingly low rye influence from a high rye mashbill.

Taste: Corn, heavy char, and not a lot else. Late rye notes transition into the spirit. Watery mouthfeel, but no green notes or anything else that denotes immaturity. A little bit of white oak comes through after all the soot and charcoal. Few pepper notes and few fruit notes, this one is all about the char.

Finish: Smooth oak and a nice combination of rye and oak bitterness (probably oak first). Reasonable duration.

Balance: I took me a long time to figure out exactly what was happening in this bottle. Jefferson’s President’s Reserve is in the price point of a lot of other single barrel offerings (think Blantons) but in my opinion it is not as good a lot of other single barrel offerings. I am not a big fan of this product, but I did have a lot of fun picking out exactly what it was that I didn’t like about it.

Stupid letter grade: C

Would I buy again. No.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ballantine's Blended Scotch Whisky Aged 17 Years

0/18/13 Ballantine’s Blended Scotch Aged 17 Years 43%

Nose: Honey sweet, smooth barley and hints of grain whiskey. Balanced smoke. Light oak sugars, a touch of vanilla. Sugar cookie salts. Light pepper and spice, but overall this is an easy nose. Ex-bourbon barrels add a little but a lot.

Taste: Classic blended barley and grain whiskey. Slight hints of smoke and pepper. Light sweet bourbon notes can be found. Bits of orange rind, bitters. Complex. Age complements the product nicely. The 17 year mark is not stealing the show, but its contributing perfectly to the product.

Finish: Barley starts to come out of the blend and into the center. Hits of pepper and oak bitters arrive. More citrus rind. Flavors are elusive. Whispy.

Balance: A good as blends get in my book. Balance. Malt. Grain. Smoke.

Stupid letter grade: A

Would I buy again. If I ever find myself on a delta flight from Asia to the US, yes.

DYC 8 Anos

Shamelessly jacked from some Spanish website
Color: Really light straw. As least as light as a 10 year islay, maybe lighter

Nose: Very light (but still dominating) peat. Coastal aroma, light barley. Really that’s it. It’s a clean, simple nose.

Taste: A light and straightforward blend. Peated notes arrive early and lightly and linger until the finish. Lightly oily mouthfeel. Grain alcohol palate is fine, not really noticeable but it’s not bad. Elusive barley notes are present after a little reflection on it.

Finish: Easily the highlight of the product. Lemon rind bitters sneak out of the taste as the smoke subsides. The rind travels the width of your tongue like a Szechuan peppercorn (sorry about the obscure spice note). Finish is accommodated by some surprisingly strong tingling for a 40% product. Faint hints of acetone.

Balance: A nice lightweight blend that brings just a little uniqueness based on its origin. I wonder where the peat comes from. I don’t think of the vast Spanish peat fields when I think of Spain. I’d speculate, based on this being a Beam product that the peat is coming from reuse of a Laphroaig barrel.

Stupid letter grade: B -- take that with a larger grain of salt, this product is way outside my wheelhouse. If your passion is blends (and maybe from there light blends) I would give a higher grade.

Would I buy it again: Yes. This was a great souvenir from a vacation in Spain. The best souvenir is the kind that you eat or drink.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Four Roses Single Barrel 2013 Limited Edition

So long, friend
10/12/13 4 Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel 59.9% Barrel 3-3L (13 years OSBK)

Nose: Intense dark cherry and brown sugar. Fruity, bright profile that has a deceptively low on alcohol and high on sweets. High “B” rye mashbill gives it that classic 4R house style. It’s a special release but it’s definitely a Four Roses bottle. Hint of green, minty aromatics.

Taste: Early blasts of spicy cinnamon and vanilla quickly retreat into a fully developed, fantastic orange rind note. For all the sweetness in the nose, it is not here on the taste. Not a lot of sweetness in taste profile, even the rye seems a little more bitter than usual, but the rye complement is very nice.

Finish: Long, clean, delicious bitters and warmth. Oak lingers complemented by general spiciness. Smooth. Long. Excellent.

Balance: What I want in a special edition. Tasty, high proof, and in the right balance of uniqueness yet a preservation of the house style. Four Roses has always struck me as a classic bourbon. 4R’s classic rye spice, oak, and middle aged profile are just textbook to me. This 2013 bottle was a great trip into limited edition bourbon.

Stupid letter grade: A

Would I buy again: I did.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weller Vertical: Old Weller Antique, Weller 12 Year, and William Larue Weller

Color: OWA and Weller 12 are nearly the same color. Weller 12 may be a little darker. Maybe because I want it to be darker. WLW is defiately slightly darker, and also appears to be more turbid than the other two.


Weller House Style: Faint wheat nose, Some phenolic aromatics, strong dark cherry notes. Subtle baking aromas.

OWA107: Younger bourbon smell. Some acetone, floral notes. A very light sharpness.

W12: Vintage oak notes are beginning to appear. Dark cherry nose is much more focused. Phenolic nose is subdued, a background aroma of something like vinegar is there.

WLW: A cross between the two. Oak notes somewhat more developed than OWA, but not as high as Weller 12. Spices are again between the two. A nice age, strengths of both young and old.


Weller House Style: All feature that smooth, directed flavor profile wheat offers in substitute for the floral spice complication offered by rye. All have a balance of oak and spice that mingle at different levels between the two products. Whether you are into the more raw spice of youth or the refined oak flavors of old is going to divide the products and where your preference lies.

OWA: As you may expect this is directed towards the spice and raw nature of immaturity, still the more harsh notes of young spirit has been pulled out by the oak. The oak notes are young and fresh. There is a hint of the feinty, vinegar notes found in youth, but they’ve been mellowed out pretty far. I am a fan of the presentation proof, it’s definitely not underpowered but it is in no need of water drops, breathing, or other fancy techniques. Just drink it.

Weller 12: Much more matured, refined. Oak is more present, but there’s also a green, vinegar note that is also more present than the 107. Spices are diminished. This one is all about the oak.

WLW: Barrel strength offering brings out the spice. The cherry notes are intense, uncut, barrel proof product contributes to a full, oily mouthfeel. Cherry spice, wheat notes, and intense oak meld into a unified, full palate flavor profile.


OWA: Spices linger, light burn appears finishes in a moderate length.

Weller 12: Any green oak notes quickly dissipate. Oak has a subtle linger. Very long, very clean finish.

WLW: Finish is harder to evaluate; the barrel strength nature of this product is anesthetizing.  But before that numbness the balanced 12 and 107 motif continues. Some oak notes, some continued spice. The best of both worlds.

Balance: Full line of wheaters from BT. The unreviewed Weller Special Reserve, the spicy, younger Old Weller Antique 107, the older, more matured Weller 12, and the special release, uncut William Larue Weller from the Buffalo Trace Antique line. Take your pick, all these products have something special to offer.

Stupid letter grades:

Weller 12: B
Old Weller Antique: B+/A-
William Larue Weller: A

Would I buy again: Weller 107 yes. Weller 12: Rarely. William Larue Weller: Yes for now, but if I ever had to cut down my whiskey budget this would be vulnerable to the slightly lower quality but considerably cheaper Old Weller Antique

SPECIAL BONUS: Tasting of the Straight Bourbon Weller 107/ Weller 12 blend.

Wow this really is as good as everyone says it is. I’m not a blender. I generally respect the bottling strengths of distillers probably more than I should. I will be making more of this in the future.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wild Turkey 101

Bird is the Word
Nose: Full, rich corn and rye notes. The alcohol and rye merge together to make a acetone-anise note that really stands out. Dark cherries, bitter citrus rind, and earthy spices on the periphery. Borderline sweet, but a great phenolic note that really stands out.

Taste: Two stages of the taste in this product. Stage one is a pleasant, simple blend of not harsh ethanol and oak. Light, grainy feeder corn notes and a watery mouthfeel conclude stage one. Stage two begins immediately afterwards in a building warmth to burn and a spicy licorice candy rye note. Some nonspecific bitters work their way into the profile. Some late corn flavor comes in.

Finish: Stays long and warm. A little bit of distilled corn funk kicks in way at the end but it took me a fair amount of sippin and thinkin to get to it.

Balance: Another Kentucky distillery offers another strong flagship bottling. WT101 is a solid, 20-25 dollar product that should be able to be picked up at just about any liquor store. The Wild Turkey house style is a little harder to explain than the yeasty beam or the musty oak of Heaven Hill. I guess if I had to summarize it as concisely as possible I’d say corny spice.

Stupid Letter Grade: B/B+