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George Dickel Tabasco Brand Barrel Finish

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 Taylor Strategy 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.

You've seen the .gif online featuring Jason Bateman in his role from Arrested Development, I'm sure ("What? No. No. No. NoNoNo."). Well, that's what went through my head when I got the PR email regarding a Tabasco barrel finished version of George Dickel. 

But then, then I remembered that my favorite condiment is made by Tabasco. And I remembered that I have planned meals around the fact that I wanted something to eat upon which I could put that particular condiment. 

And so, I requested a sample. A request, I might add, that I was rightly and roundly mocked for when I last met friends for a drink. I believe that the exclamation was along the lines of "But Tabasco is so vinegary! Why would you want vinegar in your whiskey?" I'm not going to lie. He made a point, I hadn't considered. But still, here it is. I might as well taste it.

George Dickel Tabasco Brand Barrel Finish

Purchase Info: This sample was kindly provided to me free of charge by Taylor Strategy. The suggested price was $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle. 

Details: 35% ABV

Nose: Citrus and hot peppers

Mouth: Sweet with hints of pepper flavor. Not as hot as you'd expect.

Finish: Mild at first with a hot pepper kick after a few seconds.

Thoughts: This is not a drink that was intended to be consumed neat. It's a gimmick product. The press release describes enjoying it as a shot. So, I'm going to guess that this was initially envisioned as a Fireball competitor (though I'm hearing rumors this is becoming more of a "one-and-done" sort of product). So, as it wasn't intended as to be consumed neat, it was a bit unfair of me to subject it to my standard tasting regimen.

Because of that, I also decided to try it in a few cocktails. And it did ok there. I'm not a cocktail guru, but I could see this becoming an interesting ingredient in the hands of a skilled mixologist. I used it in a whiskey sour and it did well. Made it slightly spicy. I had a few people thinking it might be good in a Bloody Mary, which I could see. I once made a Manhatten riff with a vinegar shrub in place of the vermouth which was pretty good, so that might be a route to explore too. 

 IMAGE: A hand-drawn frown with it's toungue out and X's for eyes.

Bottom line: There is nothing inherently wrong with this and to quote Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast: it "could have been MUCH worse." But, yeah, this isn't for me. I'll be trying it in more cocktails, but if I can't find something that I like better than my standard ones, I may not finish the bottle. That said, this is a weird one. So if it intrigues you and you see it at a bar, give it a try. 


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Bulleit Rye: Revisited

Posted on by Eric Burke

It has been two thousand, one hundred, thirty-seven days since I last published a review of Bulleit Rye. It was so long ago that I was still writing posts about the new additions to my whiskey stash (often without reviews). It was my sixth ever official post (fifteenth overall) and only the third instance of the hand-drawn review symbols that have become a mainstay of the site ever since. It was also the first review to earn a "love" rating. Back then I had this to say about it: 

"For the price of this whiskey, there is no reason for it to not always be on your shelf. It works great in cocktails and I love to drink it neat. Inexpensive, tasty and versatile."

So almost 6 years ago, I thought that this was the bee's knees. The best rye I'd had. And even at that early date, I'd had quite a few different ryes. Something about that 95% rye mash bill made me very happy. Even now, I tend to prefer the MGP Indiana-style rye over all others. Kentucky Ryes are just spicy bourbon. Canadian 100% ryes can be good, but these days it feels like they are either under-proofed or overpriced. I haven't had enough of the "Rye Mash with Malted Rye" style 100% Rye to make a firm judgment, but the ones I've had so far have been more interesting than good.

It is safe to say that over the years, this has been the most common rye to hit my shelves. I use it in cocktails, I drink it neat, and I use it in blending experiments (which only makes sense since it was originally developed as a component of a blended whiskey). But one thing I haven't done for almost 6 years is sit down and do a thoughtful tasting of it. I'm curious how my palate has shifted in the intervening years.

Bulleit Rye

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN

Details: MGP distilled. 95% Rye Mash. 45% ABV.

Nose: Mint, cherry, and pipe tobacco. 

Mouth: Spicy with mint, dill, cherry, and pipe tobacco.

Finish:  Medium length with lingering spice, mint, and cherry. 

 Image: A smiley face.

Thoughts: This is the first Revisited whiskey that I have downgraded the rating on. It's not that I like it any less than I did six years ago, I've just raised the bar for those that I "love." It's interesting how little the notes on this whiskey have changed for me. I still get cherry and pipe tobacco. A combination, it is safe to say, I have never gotten on another whiskey. Yet I got it here almost 6 years apart. That is a testament to the prowess of both MGP and Diageo. I really like this one. And honestly, I'll repeat my message from six years ago, tortured grammar and all: "For the price of this whiskey, there is no reason for it to not always be on your shelf."


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Crown Royal: Bourbon Mash

Posted on by Eric Burke

I used to work with a guy that almost no one in the company liked. He'd been there forever and was extremely enthusiastic about the job and the mission of the company. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that after a while his habit of going around the proper channels to get his pet projects done started to grate on my nerves as well. Especially since, though he had a lot of enthusiasm, he didn't have nearly as much talent as he thought he did. Unfortunately for him, everyone knew this fact about him, including the higher-ups. As such, he got shuffled from position to position until he was finally let go in the first of many rounds of layoffs that the company went through. Apparently, after he lost his job, he had a hard time of things and ended up taking his own life. 

While he was still with the company, he had a piece of paper taped up in his cube where he and passers-by could see it. It had three simple words on it: "Assume positive intent." Something about that simple reminder to be empathetic made a big impact on me. It was a key point in adopting my "don't be a dick" philosophy. I wish I could tell him how big of an impact he has made on my life. I feel bad that after this long, I can't even remember his name. 

I thought of this tonight when I was doing a little research on tonight's whisky. This one received a lot of flack from the self-proclaimed "consumer advocates" of the whisky community. See, the TTB originally approved the label for this whisky even though it was in clear violation of the standards of identity (§5.22 (l)). I will be kind and assume that these "consumer advocates" really think they are doing a public good by going after these companies. And they probably are having a positive effect. But from the outside, it sure does seem that they love the "gotcha" moment, appearing to assume that every company is out to pull a fast one and that the regulators are corrupt, stupid, incompetent, or some combination of the three. 

I will, however, choose to "assume positive intent." The description on the label is technically correct. It is a Canadian whiskey distilled from a bourbon mash. The fact that it is also a prohibited use of the word bourbon? Sure, it may have slipped past someone on a bad day. Hell, people make mistakes. Even marketing people. (If I got fired from every job where I made a mistake, I'd have never kept one.) That the TTB then came back to Diageo and revoked the approval and asked them to surrender it makes it a non-issue to me. So Diageo gets to sell it for a year based on the agreement with the TTB. Then it goes away and becomes a piece of trivia for hardcore whiskey nerds. And a collector's bottle for those who think it will become a collector's bottle.

But now on to the important question: How does it taste?

Crown Royal Bourbon Mash

Purchase Info: $26.99 for a 750mL bottle at Savage Liquors (Hy-vee), Savage, MN.

Details: 40% ABV. Non-age stated (but to be called whisky Canadian whisky has to be at least three years old).

Nose: Delicate. Caramel, vanilla, mint and almond.

Mouth: Thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel. Tingly spice. Nutty sweetness.

Finish: On the short side of medium. Gentle spice. Lingering notes of nuts and cocoa. 

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Thoughts: This is alright. Not great, not terrible. It splits the difference between a bourbon and a Canadian whisky. Unfortunately, when I'm in the mood for a bourbon, I want a bourbon, and when I'm in the mood for a Canadian whisky, I want Canadian. That said, this is fine, but it doesn't really have a place on my shelf. 


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Orphan Barrel: Entrapment

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 Taylor Strategy 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.

Yes, I know that the name of the site is BourbonGuy but from the beginning, I've had a focus on North American whiskey, which includes bourbon, rye and yes, Canadian. Longtime readers know this, but I've been seeing a lot of new names popping up in the comments so I thought I'd reiterate it. I count myself to be a Canadian Whisky fan. I've enjoyed releases from little known (in the US) names such as Danfield's and Highwood Ninety and from the staples such as Canadian Club and Crown Royal. 

And it was that last one that got me excited when I saw that I'd be getting a review sample. The newest release in the Orphan Barrel line is a 25-year-old Canadian whiskey that was initially intended for Crown Royal. It was left over and set aside. In this case for quite a while. I like Crown Royal, though I find it to be a bit overpriced and overrated. 

Let's see how the leftover bits fair.

Orphan Barrel: Entrapment

Purchase info: This sample was kindly provided by Taylor Strategy. The suggested retail price is $149.99 per 750 mL bottle. 

Details: 25 years old. 41% ABV. Mashbill of 97% corn and 3% malted barley. Distilled in Gimli, Manitoba. Bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Nose: Cinnamon candies, caramel, dried lumber.

Mouth: Very polite. And by that, I mean so gentle that you could honestly hold it in your mouth for minutes before you start to notice it. At that point, sweet and fruity notes combine with a nice nuttiness.

Finish: Gentle and short with cinnamon and nutty notes.

Thoughts: On the surface, there isn't a lot to this. The nose is very good, but you almost have to swallow your sip before the flavor starts to show up. When the flavors arrive, they are also very good. Though, I don't think I would say they are $150 good. Especially when they only show up for the second act. Yeah, this is pretty meh for me. 

And that disappoints and irritates me. There are a ton of delicious, full-flavored, Canadian whiskies on the market. Even the oldest ones are less than half the price of this. I'm terrified that someone will buy this and think that because it was so expensive, that this must be the best. That all Canadian Whiskies are this mild. I worry that in that mythical person's mind all Canadian whiskey will be dismissed. And they shouldn't be.


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Orphan Barrel: Rhetoric 23-Year-Old Bourbon

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 Taylor Strategy for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. 

On Tuesday we talked about what the Orphan Barrel series was, why I hadn't reviewed any of it yet and what I thought of the 22-year old version of Rhetoric. Tonight we are looking at the 23-year old version that is either out now or will be soon depending on where you live. 

Do you know why I generally prefer my bourbon in the six to twelve-year-old range? There is a reason for it, well two actually. These days, the biggest one is the price. But even back when you could find an Elijah Craig 18 year for less than fifty bucks, I still typically left that for my wife to drink. She has always liked older bourbons more than I do. So not including the price the reason I don't care for older bourbons is that they tend to feel over oaked to me. In many of them, you taste oak and not much else. I like the interplay of the flavors that the barrel has contributed and those that the grains and yeast added. 

Of course, I don't want to make generalizations. There are plenty of gently aged bourbons out there that reach the upper teens without tasting like you are sucking on a bitter old stick. But when the price has risen as much as it has, making it almost impossible to take the plunge to try them without spending the kind of money that would make my frugal old Grandmother blush, it is hard to justify. Until such a time as my wife becomes independently wealthy, I'll probably just try these as samples and save my money for safer bets.

Orphan Barrel: Rhetoric 23-Year-Old Bourbon

Purchase Info: This 100mL sample was generously proved by Taylor Strategy. I've seen it for sale online between $129 and $180.

Details: 23 years old. 45.3% ABV

Nose: Vanilla and caramel, leather, oak and a generic nuttiness (remember I'm allergic, so I don't nut too much).

Mouth: Vanilla, baking spices, mint, anise and oh so much oak.

Finish: Hot, but the heat fades rather quickly to be replaced by oak. The oak pretty much overpowers anything else and lasts for a nice long time. After that fades, a general sweetness replaces it.

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Thoughts: I'm going to come right out and say it. I think this one is over oaked. If you are a fan of such things, grab it. However, I'm going to pass.

Comparison Thoughts: It's really amazing what an extra year will do when a whiskey gets this old. I liked the 22-year-old quite a bit, but the 23-year-old gets a pretty hard pass from me. The oak ramped up quite a bit providing a lot more pronounced bitterness to the finish. In the 22-year-old, the notes were melded together into a well-balanced whole. The extra year's worth of oak extraction allowed the oak to take over and not to the whiskey's benefit. Don't get me wrong, both of these have pronounced oak notes, but one is part of a nice melding while the other trends toward one-note.


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!