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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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Good reviews and High West American Prairie Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

An interesting thing that I've only recently realized is that while my hobby is providing reviews for things that other people have made, my living is made providing services and creating objects that live and die by reviews from other people. I'm a Freelance Graphic Designer, I have an Etsy store, and I watch people's dogs. 

It is amazing how bad a poor review or a lost client can feel when you've worked your ass off. It is why I try to couch negative reviews in the nicest way possible. Very few people set out to purposefully create a bad product so just because I think a poor review is justified and is good for consumers, I don't want to discourage someone just because being a dick will get more clicks than being nice about it. 

Conversely, a great review will make you feel like you are on top of the world. Like all the hard work you put into a job was noticed and made someone's life better. It's even better when that good review is hand-delivered and is accompanied by whiskey. 

Which is what happened to me last week. 

There is a dog that I have been watching at least once a week for the last six months or more. He was just a pup when it started and we've had the pleasure of watching him grow up. Last Friday, our client came up the walkway holding a bag that looked suspiciously like a booze bag. In it was a very lovely card letting us know how much she appreciated all we do for him and a bottle of High West American Prairie bourbon. Which was doubly appreciated as we hadn't reviewed it previously. 

Long story short: if you appreciate someone, let them know. It'll make their day.

High West American Prairie Bourbon

Purchase Info: This bourbon was a lovely gift of appreciation from a dogsitting client. Suggested retail price is $34.99.

Details: Age stated as 2 years old. The High West website says that is is a blend of 2- to 13-year-old straight bourbon whiskeys with one of them being an MGP bourbon of the 75% corn, 21% rye mashbill.

Nose: Butterscotch, mint, cinnamon and a hint of pickle juice. 

Mouth: Sweet with a nice mouthfeel. Caramel, nutmeg, dusty oak and a hint of anise. 

Finish: Medium length. Notes of cinnamon, mint, and oak. 

Thoughts: The folks at High West have a reputation for sourcing whiskeys from multiple distilleries and blending them to make a tasty end product. This is no exception. Even though the product is legally only 2-years-old, this is a pretty good dram. They recommend using it in a cocktail, but I think it works just fine on it's own. 


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!

Wild Turkey Longbranch

Posted on by Eric Burke

As this is billed as a collaboration between Matthew McConaughey and Eddie Russell, I'm guessing I'm supposed to start this post with some famous movie quote, something along the lines of "alright, alright, alright" or some other such piece of pop culture detritus. 

I'm not going to do that. 

I like Matthew McConaughey as an actor. I've liked him in most of the roles he's played. I was a bit curious when he came on as "Creative Director" for Wild Turkey, but he seems to have made a couple of good commercials. I paused a bit when Wild Turkey announced a collaboration between said Creative Director and Eddie Russell in the form of a new bourbon. I love Wild Turkey, and I wasn't sure what an actor could bring to a brand that was built under Jimmy Russell. 

However, the bottle was only $36, so I decided to find out. 

Wild Turkey Longbranch

Purchase Info: $35.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details:  43% ABV. Filtered...err...Refined with an oak and mesquite charcoal.

Nose: Brown Sugar, Wintergreen, nutmeg and a hint of day-old campfire ashes

Mouth: Thin mouthfeel. A lot of baking spices, wintergreen.

Finish: Full-mouth finish with a nice lingering tingle. Notes of mint and baking spice.

Thoughts: This is a version of Wild Turkey that turns down the "kick" but turns up the spiciness. I don't know that it will appeal to Wild Turkey die-hards, but it would probably appeal to those who are "Wild Turkey Curious." I like it. It certainly isn't my favorite Wild Turkey expression. It's better than the 81 proof. But I like 101 and Rare Breed much better. But then, I've heard of this compared to Old Grand-Dad 114's Basil Hayden. I think that is a good comparison. It's got a lot of the same flavors as it's more assertive brothers, but is accessible to the newcomer. And much like that, if it gets more people in the door, I guess it's done it's job.


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Maker's Mark: Seared Bu 1-3

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 Maker's Mark for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion and should be taken as just that.

I have spent the last two evenings re-mulching the flower beds in front of my house. If I did it all at once, this would be a much more onerous task, but luckily the pick-up truck can only hold so many cubic yards of mulch. So I get to break it up into three much more manageable (though, to this out of shape drinker, still tiring) jobs. We like to get the ruby red mulch. Not only is it an attractive color, but it nicely accents the green plants that it surrounds. 

Does this have anything to do with tonight's whiskey? Not really. I just wanted to whine about my sore back for a bit. 

Well, maybe there is one connection. Red. Tonight I'm tasting a lovely limited edition, gift shop only, version of bourbon's favorite redhead, Maker's Mark. It is a sold out release, so I'm basically bragging at this point. But the knowledge of how good, or not, this release is might help you decide whether or not to make the trip to Maker's to stand in line the next time they announce a super limited, distillery only release. 

In case you hadn't guessed it already, I'm tasting the Maker's Mark Seared Bu 1-3 bourbon tonight. It is an off-shoot of the Private Select program we discussed back in December. This time they are featuring a new stave that wasn't included in the Private Select program. Not because it didn't taste good, but because it didn't play well with others. 

So what is this Stave Bu 1-3? According to the press release, it is a "virgin seared and sous-vide  French oak stave." And according to author Carla Carlton, that means precisely what it sounds like: the seared staves were soaked in temperature-controlled water for some length of time. How does this help the stave make the whiskey taste different? No idea. I'm not a wood scientist (though if a wood scientist is reading this, I would love to know, and will happily publish, the answer). 

But for now, you probably don't care about that. You just want to know how it tastes. 

Maker's Mark Seared Bu 1-3

Purchase info: This sample was kindly provided to me free of charge by Maker's Mark. The suggested price was $39.99 for a 375 mL bottle. 

Details: 55.35% ABV. Batch #1. Sample date April 24, 2018. Stave profile 10 Seared Bu 1-3. 

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, ripe cherries. 

Mouth: Very warm when neat. Buttered toffee, honey, baking spices, and a light fruitiness. 

Finish: Long and warm. Lingering dark chocolate and cinnamon. 

 Image: a hand-drawn smiley face

Thoughts: This is delicious. Forget making me want to drive down to buy it; this bourbon makes me want to live near the distillery so I could be first in line on the off chance there is something like this put out again. I'd love it if this one was added to the permanent line-up along side Maker's Mark, Maker's 46, and the cask strength ones. 

As this is a barrel-strength release, I'll let you know that this holds its own with, and can benefit from, a little water. All the flavors stick around, but the heat gets knocked down some so you can enjoy them. I absolutely love this one. I'll be sticking this in the closet to share when company comes over. 


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!