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Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

If you come to my house, the chances are good that you will find a bottle of Knob Creek Rye on my shelf. My local corner liquor store has had the regular expression priced at $25 per 750 mL bottle for almost a year now. The pricing of which makes it a handy pickup when the rye whiskey runs low at my house. 

But now, for the second time in as many months, I've found a new expression of Knob Creek Rye on my shelf. The last time around it was a pair of Single Barrel picks at 115° proof and six years old. This time it is Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye at right around 120° and about nine years old. 

As you might expect, every proof and age bump comes with an even heftier price bump. When I step up from six years (batched) at 100° proof to six years (single barrel) at 115° proof, the price went from $25 to just under $50. When I stepped up again to the Cask Strength (batched) at about nine years old and with another proof increase of 4.6° proof, the price obliged me by stepping up as well. This time to just under $80 (though if I had waited to shop around, I could have gotten it for $65).

That seems like a pretty hefty increase when you realize that I could have bought three bottles of the standard 100° proof expression for what I paid. Of course, I didn't think of that when I bought it. I just thought: "Ohh! Gotta have!" 

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Purchase Info: $79.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: Barreled in 2009. Aged in Warehouse A. 59.8% ABV.

Nose: Oak, vanilla, brown sugar, spearmint, and baking spice.

Mouth: Spicy, as you might expect. Black tea, mint, baking spices, and peanut. 

Finish: Long and warm with lingering black tea, spices, mint, and oak.

Thoughts: So yeah, even though I set the intro up as if I wasn't happy with the purchase, I do not regret buying this. Not even a little bit. Sure, I could have gotten it cheaper by waiting and shopping around, but now I know that for when I buy the second bottle (because I do hope to buy a second bottle). 

I like it a lot. It is more "bourbony" than many other ryes on the market. Probably due to extended time in the barrel combined with a "barely legal" mashbill. If you like Knob Creek Rye and can swing the price, I'd say give this a try. Heck, even my wife, who typically only wants her rye in a cocktail, likes this one.


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Jefferson's Reserve

Posted on by Eric Burke

When you go into a restaurant, do you expect that said restaurant has grown the vegetables they are serving you? Do you assume that they bred,  raised, and slaughtered the cow that your steak was once part of? If you know that they are sourcing their ingredients from somewhere else, do you demand to know what farm they sourced them from? Of course, some restaurants pride themselves on doing just these things. But does it make you mad that not every restaurant does? Do you loudly proclaim to the internet that you have a right to know who the restaurant's suppliers are and propose boycotts of restaurants that can't tell you?

Now, what if that restaurant is not a restaurant, but is instead a whiskey producer? If you know that the whiskey producer is not distilling the whiskey, do you loudly proclaim to the internet that you have a right to know who they sourced their ingredients from? 

Of course, there is a difference between a restaurant and whiskey producer. Namely that most restaurants do not also claim to be growers of vegetable and raisers of beef cattle. And until relatively recently, many Non-Distiller Producers (NDPs) did claim to be distillers. And of course, some still do. But I think it is sensible to point out those that are transparent about the fact that they didn't "kill the cow" and are instead specializing in being "an excellent chef." Using the ingredients that they source—in this case, bourbons—to create something different from and hopefully better than what they started with.

Based on my reading this is what the folks who produced tonight's whiskey are saying. Jefferson's acknowledges they didn't distill the bourbons that went into their product. They do seem proud of the fact that they have blended them together into something they like more. 

In the end, though I value folks that grow and raise food, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a good chef.

Jefferson's Reserve

Purchase Info: $54.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Savage Liquors - HyVee, Savage, MN

Details: 45.1% ABV

Nose:  Floral and fruity with vanilla, oak, and baking spice. 

Mouth: Nice tingly baking spice and very floral with a hint of fruitiness. 

Finish:  Warm and of decent length. Initial notes of bubblegum transition to lingering notes of baking spice. 

 IMAGE: a hand-drawn smiley face

Thoughts: I like this. It is a nice "change of pace" bourbon that is quite unlike the stereotypical bourbon flavor profile. It's one of those that you turn to when you want something a little different but not so different that you are looking at a different spirit entirely. The flavor reminds me a lot of Canadian Club but with more bourbon backbone. It's interesting.


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Wilderness Trail Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

A little over four and a half years ago, my wife noticed that a craft distillery out of Kentucky was following her on Twitter. As she didn't tweet very often, this was a surprise for her, and she reciprocated the follow. 

A little while later (late October 2013), she noticed a tweet stating "Sign up for a limited time to reserve your bottle from our first release of Wilderness Trail Bourbon." Being enthusiastic, she signed up. She asked me if I wanted to sign up as well, but as craft bourbons were (are) far from a sure thing, I declined to also get on the list. To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd want two bottles, much less four from a distillery I hadn't heard of before.

Of course, that distillery didn't stay unknown for long. In December of that year, Chuck Cowdery profiled them on his blog, letting us know that the new distillery was just the latest venture from a (then) decade-old company named Ferm Solutions. To quote the company website: "Ferm Solutions is a leading research, product development, engineering and technical service provider to the ethanol and distilled spirits industries."

 This information set my mind at ease. If the company knew enough about fermentation and distilling to make products for and advise others on it, they could very possibly make a decent product themselves. Then I remembered that Town Branch was also part of a large company that should have been able to lend some expertise and they still made a pretty lousy bourbon.

And so I pretty much forgot about being on the Wilderness Trail list until my wife received an email this spring informing her that the bourbon was ready and asking if she still wanted to purchase hers. Remembering the good things we'd read about them over the years, and using it as a good excuse for a long weekend in Kentucky, we jumped at the chance. 

Wilderness Trail Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

Purchase Info: We bought two 750 mL bottles, one in a commemorative box for $79.99 and one for $45 without. 

Details: Single Barrel. Barrel# 14C28A. Bottle# 37/242. 50% ABV. Non-Chill filtered. Sweet Mash bourbon.

Nose: Classic Bourbon notes of caramel, oak, and vanilla are joined by cooked cereals and cinnamon. 

Mouth: Follows the nose with caramel, oak, cooked cereals, and cinnamon. 

Finish: This is a finish that lingers in both the mouth and the chest. Warm and long. Lingering notes of cinnamon and oak.

 IMAGE: A hand-drawn smiley face.

Thoughts: I wasn't paying attention to Wilderness Trail previously, but I sure am now! This is one of the few Craft Distilleries to have put out a product that can not only compete with the big boys in their own style but would beat some of them too. I really like this and cannot wait to see what comes next.

And yes, now I'm kicking myself for not getting on the list too. 


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Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Posted on by Eric Burke

When I was first getting into cocktails, I read everything I could on how to "up my cocktail game." There was no shortage of listicles telling me what 10 things to try and what 10 things to avoid.

And on almost every list were cherries. List makers of the late aughts and early teens were terrified that someone might use a grocery store Maraschino Cherry in their cocktail. And at the time, the fear was probably well founded. There were not a lot of pre-made cocktail cherries on the market that weren't Glowing Red Neon Balls of Dye and Sugar™. Of those that were suitable for grown-up cocktails, Luxardo was the brand that was recommended the most. 

Unfortunately, Luxardo Maraschino Cherries run almost twenty dollars a jar so, for the longest time, I just omitted the cherry garnish. But my reading led me to believe that the syrup surrounding the cherry made more difference to the drink than the cherry itself and that by omitting it, I was actually losing flavor.

So being a DIY sort of guy who loves to cook, I devised my own recipe for cocktail cherries. Sure, they probably ended up costing more than the store-bought, but I had much more than $20 worth of fun making them. And I got a lot more than a 16-ounce jar for my effort. I made a lot of versions. Two of them were good enough to write about: Chocolate-Bourbon Cocktail Cherries and Orange-Spiced Cocktail Cherries. The latter being my personal favorite and our current go-to cherry for whiskey cocktails. 

But last year, I couldn't find the materials to make any homemade cherries. So I've been buying them this year. I previously reviewed the Woodford Reserve Cherries from Bourbon Barrel Foods and found them to be a good, if lesser, substitute for my own cherries. This time around I thought I might finally give the original a try. See what all those listicles were talking about.

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Purchase Info: $16.99 for a 400 Gram Jar at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

 Image: hand-drawn Neutral face

Thoughts: The syrup these cherries are packed in is pretty damn good for adding a delightful cherry note to your cocktails. But, the cherries themselves are very disappointing. They are certainly a step up from Glowing Red Neon Balls of Dye and Sugar™ but they are the possibly the worst of the cocktail cherries I've tried if you are a grown-up and want to actually eat the cherry in your drink. The skins are tough and sticky and the insides are mush. 

If I were to recommend a cherry for your cocktail, I'd recommend making your own. If you'd rather buy them, go with the Woodford ones from Bourbon Barrel Foods. I'd give these a pass. In fact, I'm actually considering tossing the cherries and just keeping the syrup. 


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Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

I'm going to say that it was my first serious taste of whiskey that was the last time I truly liked a malt whiskey. In that case, I think that for me, liking that taste was more about enjoying the switch in flavor from clear spirits to aged ones than it was anything about the Malt Whiskey itself. Shortly afterward, I made the switch to Bourbon and Rye and have seldom looked back.

That should tell you something about my tastes. I used to say that it wasn't that I didn't like Malt Whiskey, it was just that I hadn't yet found one that I liked. But now, it's been enough time and I've tried enough that I'm willing to admit to the fact that I generally do not like Malt Whiskey. And that's ok. We all like different things. 

Not caring for Malt whiskey is one of the reasons that it appears on the site so infrequently. I have to really be interested in something about one to spend the money on one. Sometimes, as in the case of Stranahan's, I'm in the distillery and pick one up because the tasting went well. Other times, it is because of a cask finish that I found interesting. One I tried because it was made by a well-known large bourbon producer and I wanted to taste their version. 

That last one made me quite happy that my friend had spent the money on it and not me. I disliked it so much that in 2016 I named it one of the five worst American Whiskeys I'd ever had. That one was the Woodford Reserve Master's Collection: Double Malt Selection. It resulted in both my friend and I taking our drams and dumping them down the sink.

So, it was with some trepidation that I bought the recently released
Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey. After all of that, why did I buy it? Well, it's new, I figured that they may have had time to perfect their recipe, and I liked the rest of the non-experimental whiskeys under the Woodford name (Bourbon, Double Oaked, and Rye).

So what does this bourbon drinker and admitted Malt disliker think of it? Let's find out.

Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey

Purchase Info: $26.98 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 45.2% ABV. 51% Malt mashbill (via the brand website).

Nose: Nutty with caramel/vanilla and uncooked oatmeal.

Mouth: Sweetened, cooked cereal with nuts and a hint of dark chocolate. 

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Chocolate and dried grains that show as slightly bitter and a touch medicinal. Almost grassy after a while. 

 IMAGE: A hand-drawn neutral face

Thoughts: You know what? I do not dislike this. I wasn't a fan while doing the tasting. But after giving it a couple more tries and some time, I'm ok with this one. Don't get me wrong, it's not something I'm likely to ever buy again, but I'm not going to dump the bottle or relegate it to prop whiskey either. So I didn't like it, I didn't dislike it, that sounds like the very definition of Meh to me. 

But maybe take that with a grain of salt and give it a shot yourself, as I'm not generally a fan of Malt whiskey, I may have ranked it lower (or higher) than you would. 


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