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Maker's Mark Private Select, Part 1: What is it?

Posted on by Eric Burke

In 1959, Maker's Mark sold its first bottle of bourbon. And they basically just kept doing that for the next 50 years or so. They put out one product for the US market, and that was that. Luckily for them, many people liked that one product, myself included. 

Then in 2010, after much tinkering behind the scenes, Maker's Mark released their follow-up. Created by infusing cask-strength Maker's Mark with seared French oak staves, Maker's 46 is a spicier take on the traditional Maker's Mark bourbon. And, as far as I was concerned, it was a good addition to the line-up. I like Maker's Mark, and I also like 46 as an occasional change of pace. 

So after waiting 51 years between bourbons one and two, it was a bit surprising that only four years later product number three came out: Maker's Mark Cask Strength. The cynics wondered how they had enough stock to produce it when only a couple years earlier, they had tried to lower the proof of the flagship product due to a lack of stocks. The rest of us were just happy that Cask Strength was around. It is delicious. 

The next year in 2015, Maker's Mark announced their next new product. This was created just for those stores and bars that like to pick their own barrels. And since Maker's Mark prides itself on their consistency from barrel to barrel, they riffed off of Maker's 46 instead. The story is that when they were creating the recipe for Maker's 46, they tried a number of treatments to the finishing staves— toasting, baking, searing, staves with grooves, staves without, etc.—eventually settling on seared French oak. These they would then use for finishing the new product.  

For Maker's Mark Private Select, they went back to that research and are allowing retailers and bars to create their own Maker's 46 version. This time at cask strength. There are 5 different stave styles to choose from, each providing a distinct flavor to the finished product. From these, the retailer gets to choose any combination of ten staves.  The Bourbon Review has a great breakdown of each of the different staves, but to summarize: 

  • Baked American Pure 2 is an American oak stave designed to bring oak, vanilla, and sweetness to the finished product.
  • Seared French Cuvee is a grooved French oak stave that was designed to bring butterscotch, caramel, and nuttiness.
  • Maker's 46 is French oak designed to bring spicy vanilla. This is the same stave used for standard Maker's 46.
  • Roasted French Mocha is French oak designed to bring dry, dark chocolate, coffee, and char notes.
  • Toasted French Spice is also French oak and was designed to bring fruity Spice notes. 

Once I finally saw this product on shelves, I made sure to pick up bottles from a couple of different retailers. I made sure to select ones that had a significant difference in their stave choices to see just how big of a difference these finishing staves actually made. 

But, this is long enough as it is. You'll have to come back on Thursday to read the results. 


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Old Tub Bottled in Bond

Posted on by Eric Burke

In the dark depths of time and history (pre-Prohibition), there was a brand of bourbon named Old Tub. It was a product of one of today's most famous Bourbon families: the Beam family. And from what I can gather, it was all they made.

Once Prohibition came along, the rights to the Old Tub name became a bit muddled, and the company eventually switched their focus to a new brand. You may have heard of it. It's called Jim Beam.

Even so, Beam continued to sell Old Tub on an ever smaller scale, until today it is a gift shop exclusive.* If you want a fuller history of the brand, Chuck Cowdery has one that is hard to beat.

And it is as a Gift Shop exclusive that I bought it. In the last year or so I have found an appreciation of Beam bourbons, and so I decided to grab one on my September trip to Kentucky. I was mostly curious to see how different it is from other Jim Beam bourbons.

Old Tub Bottled in Bond

Purchase info: $18.99 for a 375 mL bottle at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse (the Clermont Distillery). 

Details: 50% ABV. 4 years old, age stated. 

Nose: Salted-in-the-shell peanuts, mint and caramel.

Mouth: Nice cinnamon spice on the tongue with more peanut, salted caramel, and dried corn.

Finish: Medium length and warm with lingering cinnamon and corn sweetness. 

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Thoughts: This is closer to Jim Beam white than it is Jim Beam Bonded, but, if my memory serves me, it is distinct from either of them. If you don't care for Beam Bourbons, you probably won't care for this either. But if you do it's an average tasting but fun souvenir bottle. 

*Kentucky law says that "distillery-only" products be available to other retailers in the state should they want to carry them.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visitBourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

Remus Repeal Reserve

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank Gregory White PR for providing this sample to me with no strings attached.

Seventy-second Congress of the United States of America;
At the Second Session,

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Monday, the fifth
day of December, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three

--

JOINT RESOLUTION
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

--

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by conventions in three-fourths of the several States:

"Article —

"SECTION 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

"SECTION 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

"SECTION 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress."


And so 84 years ago today the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and National Prohibition, was repealed. All in all, it is a short piece of law. The introduction is longer than the Amendment itself. What it lacked in size, it made up for in consequence. First and foremost, it allowed the Federal Government to get out of the way of a citizen's ability to have a drink. There were, of course, other consequences. The one most pertinent to tonight's post is that it also allowed the murderous scofflaws and bootleggers of the Prohibition era to fade into the sort of romanticized characters of history that only the distance of time can allow. People such as George Remus. A pharmacist, a bootlegger, lawyer and a murderer. 

Remus was a pharmacist turned Chicago criminal defense lawyer. In Daniel Okrent's book: Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition Remus is described as having an inside look at the workings of Prohibition and the amount of money that could be made outside the law. His plan was rather more complicated than a smash and grab though. He ended up buying both distillery stocks and brands (including brands such as Fleischmann's and Jack Daniel's) as well as a pharmacy where he could sell the stocks as a medicinal product. 

He would legally withdraw the bourbon from the bonded warehouse and on the way to his pharmacy, the trucks would sometimes be hijacked. Of course, they were hijacked by his own men. Now, why would he divert the booze into an illegal market when he had the ability to profit from both the sale of the liquor to his pharmacy as well as to the public? Well, that's pretty easy when you think of why he got into it in the first place. The profits are higher on the black market since there are no taxes to be paid on it.

On May 17, 1922, the New York Times published that Remus was charged with conspiring to violate prohibition laws and he and 13 others were sentenced to an Atlanta jail for a year and a day to two years (depending on the defendant). Okrent states that it was a posh cell, decorated with flowers where he was waited on by servants. During his time behind bars, his wife took up with another man and together the two of them burned through the vast fortune that Remus had accumulated (some stories say this was the agent who put Remus behind bars, some say it was an undercover agent in the prison where Remus was serving time who learned of his story and took advantage of the situation).

In either case, the newspaper reports state that his wife's affair drove him temporarily insane. Long enough to have his chauffer chase down the car she was driving in so he could shoot her in front of her daughter from a previous marriage. Of course, even in the initial reports from the trials, there seems to be at least the idea that what really ticked him off was the loss of the money. For this crime, he was committed to an insane asylum for a very short time (somewhere around three weeks) before he then "proved" that he was no longer crazy and was released. 

After that, he lived in Cincinnati for the rest of his life and seems to have lived on the correct side of the law as far as I can find. Today, he gets mentioned when people talk about Prohibition but seems to have been otherwise forgotten. Maybe that will change now that MGPi has released their Remus Repeal Reserve to go along with their George Remus Bourbon. It celebrates Remus, though he is probably not the type of person who should have been celebrated, by putting his name in big letters on the top of the bottle. It also celebrates Repeal Day as it accomplishes it's full roll-out today. 

The bourbon is 94 proof and is made up of three different MGP bourbons (for once, this isn't sourced since it is put out directly by MGPi). It is 50% Bourbon distilled in 2005 with their 21% rye recipe. It is 15% Bourbon distilled in 2006 from their 36% rye recipe. And it is 35% Bourbon distilled in 2006 with their 21% rye recipe. And it is 100% delicious. 

Remus Repeal Reserve

Purchase Info: This bottle was provided as a review sample at no cost to me. It is available locally and I have confirmed that Surdyk's has it for $75. The suggested retail price is $74.99 and it will be sold in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Details: 47% ABV. A blend of 21% and 36% rye bourbons distilled in 2005 and 2006.

Nose:  Mint, clove, rye bread, and oak.

Mouth: Dry and spicy in the mouth with cinnamon and clove, rye bread and mint.

Finish: On the long side of medium. Lingering cinnamon with rye spices.

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Thoughts: This is a deliciously spicy bourbon. I adore the predominant cinnamon and spice notes. I like this very much. Though I don't know that I would like it's namesake all that much. A dude supposed to uphold the law, who then breaks it and then even kills his wife over it...yeah...not so much.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visitBourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

Yellowstone Limited Edition 2017

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank Common Ground PR for providing this sample to me with no strings attached.

My wife has been sick lately. The kind of cold that kills your taste buds. As such, she missed out on doing the tasting for tonight's review (and the latest sample that the Whiskey Fairy dropped off). Don't get me wrong, she hasn't stopped drinking whiskey. But since she can't taste the difference between the cheap stuff and the good stuff right now...yeah she's been getting the cheap stuff. 

Tonight's bourbon is the latest Limited Edition of Yellowstone. A bourbon name that from all accounts started out pretty good, was sold, became not good, and has now become a pretty tasty bourbon again. Some of that resurgence is probably because the brand has come home to the family that helped it gain it's initial rise to fame. You see, Yellowstone was owned by Luxco back in the bad old days and it seems they wanted it to be more than just a bottom-shelf dweller. So these days Luxco has partnered with Limestone Branch Distillery to produce the brand. 

Limestone Branch is a craft distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky and was started by Stephen and Paul Beam. The Beam brothers are descendants of both the historical brand owners and the distillers that made the historical Yellowstone whiskey. Luxco bought part of the distillery, and the brothers now make the bourbon their ancestors made. 

Last year, I was a big fan of the 2016 Limited Edition. So much so that I went out and purchased a second bottle with my own money. It was a whiskey created from the vast stocks that Luxco has access to and it was very well done. So I was interested to see what they would do this year. I got even more interested in the 2017 edition when I noticed that in addition to bourbon from the vast Luxco stocks, it is also the first to contain bourbon distilled at Limestone Branch. 

Yellowstone Limited Edition 2017

Purchase Info: This sample was provided by Common Ground PR, but the suggested price is $99.99

Details: 50.5% ABV. Finished in charred wine casks. According to the press release, this is made from 7- and 12-year-old sourced bourbon and 4-year-old Limestone Branch distilled bourbon.

Nose: Caramel, leather, tobacco, and baking spices.

Mouth: Baking spice, caramel, black pepper and red fruits.

Finish: Warm and long with lingering notes of nutmeg and red fruits. 

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Thoughts: Once again, Stephen and Paul Beam have knocked this one out of the park. I liked last year's enough to want more than the 200 mL sample they sent. I think I like this year's enough to want more than the 750 mL bottle they sent me. I have a feeling I will be grabbing this again should I find it for a good price. And on a freelancer's budget, that's saying something.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visitBourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

George Washington's Mt. Vernon Distillery and Gristmill

Posted on by Eric Burke

First off, I'd like to thank Steve Bashore, Director of Historic Trades at Mt Vernon for taking time out of his schedule to show us around while also trying to complete a distilling run, something that is normally not available to the public. 


One of the things I like best about going to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is meeting people. There are so many people from so many places that visit. If you talk to the folks around you, you are almost guaranteed to find someone interesting. 2017 was no exception for me. This time I met friend-of-a-friend, Steve Bashore. Steve is the Director of Historic Trades at George Washington's Mt Vernon and, among other things, is in charge of the rebuilt distillery and gristmill there. 

Steve is passionate about his work and I am a big fan of history so we hit it off almost immediately. In fact, I think they closed down the first event we attended around us while we were having our conversation. If my wife hadn't interrupted we might have been there for as long as they were polite enough to let us stay.

One of the topics of conversation was, obviously, where he works. I told him about the failed attempt to visit the last time I was at Mt Vernon (it was closed for the season) and he extended an invitation to show me around personally the next time I was in the area. It turns out the next time I was in the area was two weeks ago, which was perfect timing as it was when they were doing one of the two distilling runs they do per year.  

This is the reproduction of George Washington's Distillery. If you've been on big whiskey tours, this doesn't look like much. It's a historic-looking building in an area full of them. But before the original burned down in the early 1810s, the modest building on this spot was counted among the largest and most profitable distilleries in the young country. This reproduction is fully functioning and twice a year fires up to produce a run of rye whiskey using grain ground on the premises. 

Upon entering the recreated distillery, I was struck by how dark it was. Even with modern lighting in use. The original (and some of the tours) used lanterns and candles to light the interior. I can only imagine how much darker it was in the original building. Above you can see a couple of the historically accurate tools of the trade: a paddle and a rake to stir the mash as it cooks. 

The process that Steve and Mt Vernon use is historically accurate. The grain is ground on site, cooking and fermentation happen in barrels, and the water and mash are moved by hand in buckets. The first step is, of course, to grind the grain. Mount Vernon uses a mash bill of 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malt. While, the records of Washington's exact recipe have been lost to time, the historians on site have determined by looking at the ledgers that this ratio makes sense with the amounts of various grains that were coming in and out of the facility. The next step is to heat the water. It is heated in an electric boiler (obviously, this isn't historically accurate, but the insurance people objected to one more wood fire on-premise...and since the original distillery burned down, maybe they have a point). The heated water is transferred to the cooking barrels (shown above) using large buckets on long wooden handles to cook the corn and rye. The temperature is then stepped down and the malt is added and is then stepped down again so the yeast can be added. 

Above you can see the yeast working its magic on the mash to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is happening in a 53-gallon barrel. Empty ones are stored behind. 

As small as the building looked on the outside, it feels even smaller on the inside. The cooking and fermenting area take up less than one-quarter of the building, the five stills run all along the opposite side and storage and proofing take up the remainder. It is an extremely efficient use of space and it is hard to believe that this was typical of the beginnings of the American Whiskey industry considering how far they have come and how big some of them have gotten.

Speaking of the still layout, here we see one of the Mt Vernon distillery workers stoking the fires that run the still. There are five wood-fired stills, each with their own condenser, that run the length of this side of the distillery. Directly to my right are the fermentation barrels seen above.

This is one still setup. The copper bulb comes off and fermented mash is fed into the still with buckets. Then the fires are lit and the whiskey vapors travel down the neck and into the condenser barrel. This barrel contains a copper worm that is cooled by water from the distilleries closed water system. It is the same system that runs the mill, so occasionally they need to supplement the water coming down the trough with a hose of water so there is enough to get the job done. The liquid you see coming out the front is warmed cooling water that is being fed back into the system.

Here is another view of the cooling water and condenser system. You can see hints of the copper worm in the barrel and the water coming out of the trough (you can also see the supplemental hose as well...hey you gotta get the job done too).

Out the back of the barrel comes the distillate. Like any pot distiller, they need to make cuts into heads, hearts, and tails. These are run through a simple coffee filter to catch anything else that might come out along with, gathered in pots, and brought to the proofing station.

Heads, hearts, and tails are all proofed using the hydrometer and tracked in a log book to keep the federal government happy. They are stored in separately by batch and by the still they came off of. After this the distillate will be bottled or placed in 25- and 53-gallon barrels to be aged for two to six years.

We close our tour of the distillery with a fitting image. The piece of wood across the handle state that this still is done for the day, no more wood needs to be added, and the fires will be allowed to burn out.

If you were trying to follow along where each image was taken this should help. Above is the archeological site of the original distillery before they rebuilt. Everything is in the same spot. Proofing happens in the unlabeled upper left corner.

The next part of the tour took us to the gristmill this mill is another historic recreation. As with the distillery, this is also fully functioning. They currently mill all the grain used in the distillery and on the rest of Mt. Vernon, including the restaurant and gift shop. 

This is one of two sets of millstones used to grind all of the grain. 10,700 pounds for the most recent distilling run, plus all the food grade flour that goes up to the main estate. Seems easy enough right? Just run some grain between these two things and out comes flour...

Well, yes, but there is a little more to it than that, as Steve was kind enough to show me. There is the water wheel, the wooden gears, the hopper and more. It is all very interesting and very pretty as the late evening light comes in the windows. 

I'm going to paraphrase the expert explanation that I was given down to the following: water turns the big wheel, which turns a bunch of other gears until it transfers that power up to the millstones. That same movement drives the hopper which separated the flour from the husks. It's all very cool and complicated. 

This is just another view of the mill gears. It's all wooden. And it is also very cool.

Of course, no distillery tour would be complete without a tasting. We sampled the complete lineup. There is a white unaged rye, a straight rye whiskey, an apple brandy, and a peach brandy eau de vie. I didn't do complete tasting notes, but here are my impressions of each. 

White unaged Rye (86 proof): Spicy and smooth. Very tasty. 

Straight Rye Whiskey (86 proof): spicy, but almost too much barrel influence. It tasted like it was aged in a small barrel (which it was). I prefer the unaged version but can't wait to try one that has sat in a full-sized barrel for 4-6 years.

Apple Brandy:  lots of dried apple flavor. More so than many craft apple brandies I've had in the past. I like that about this.

Peach Brandy Eau de Vie (90 proof): sweet, light, dried peach candy. Apparently, around the holidays, this is available in the gift shop as a small bottle and glass set for a lower price than the entire bottle should you be looking to try it.

I really had a lot of fun on this tour. It was an amazingly informative time and all of my guests learned a lot, even those who had been to Mt Vernon before and those who knew almost nothing about distilling. But before I go, I need to share an image of Steve's keys. I'm really glad that key technology has come as far as it has...I don't think I could fit those in my pocket if I need those to start my car.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!