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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. 


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Tattersall Straight Rye Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

About two and a half years ago, I paid a behind-the-scenes visit to Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I walked away impressed with what they were doing and how they were doing it. The one thing I was a bit sad about was the lack of whiskey. But, knowing that better times (or at least times filled with more whiskey) were ahead, I wrote the following: 

The notable exception is whiskey. Right now the cocktail room uses a bourbon that is sourced from a distillery in Kentucky and bottled by them for use in their cocktails. 
Don’t be sad though. They have started production on a rye whiskey as well as wheated and rye bourbons. The rye whiskey will be 100% rye using rye grain and rye malt and aged for at least two years. They want to put out a straight product. 

Well, it looks like days full of whiskey have arrived for Tattersall as their two-year-old rye whiskey is now for sale at many fine liquor stores in the state of Minnesota. As soon as I saw the announcement I ran out to buy a bottle. 

Tattersall Straight Rye Whiskey

Purchase Info: $34.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV. 100% Rye mash. 

Nose: Dark rye bread

Mouth: Nice, thick mouthfeel. Rye bread, molasses, mint, and nutmeg.

Finish: Not very hot but the flavors of wintergreen and molasses last a very long time.

Thoughts: This is a very interesting whiskey. Based on the timeframe and the fact that they say it is 100% rye, I have to assume that they stuck with the rye and rye malt recipe that they mentioned to me a couple years ago. If so, I think you should try this whiskey. Maybe at a bar, but give it a try. I admit this will not be to everyone's tastes but I like it. I like the idea of more rye styles than barely legal rye (51% rye) and 95-5 rye (MGP) being on the market even more.

Curious on what else Tattersall is doing? Well, when this came out they also put out a whiskey made from Stargrazer, a beer from local brewer Bauhaus Brewlabs. And looking back at that old post I found this tidbit: 

For the bourbons, though they wouldn’t tell me the ingredient ratios, they did let me know that they are using different malts for both the wheat and the rye bourbons as well as a specialty yeast that was developed in Scotland. 

Hmmm.... this might be one to keep an eye on.


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Ragged Branch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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 Ragged Branch Distillery for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. 

Right as the new year was beginning, I received an email from the folks at Ragged Branch Distillery asking if I would review their bourbon. I, having no idea who Ragged Branch Distillery was, said yes. Because, heck, you never know if it will be good until you try it. 

So who is Ragged Branch Distillery? I've never met them, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that Ragged Branch is run by very enthusiastic, very detail oriented people. Most samples, if they come with any information, come only with a PR card or flyer. These came with sell sheets, photos, and a six-page history of the company. 

I was ecstatic. I love it when producers tell me way more information than I thought I wanted to know. I love the enthusiasm. And I love the transparency. I'm not going to reproduce their entire story for you, but here are the high points. 

Ragged Branch began like many craft distilleries do, with a conversation amongst friends over drinks. It was 2009 and the friends, all of whom worked in the home building industry, were suffering from the effects of the downturn in the housing market. But, as it sometimes does, a stretch of bad luck and a few drinks turned into inspiration. From there, the friends enlisted the services of David Pickerell to help teach them just what it would take to get up and running, and how to, you know, actually make bourbon. 

But it wasn't smooth sailing. There were a few hiccups along the way. One, involving a snowstorm, stranded Mr. Pickerell at their house for four days. Another involved a mixup with a license application and quite a few agents of the Virginia ABC. Luckily that last one was worked out right away.

Ragged Branch is truly a farm-to-table operation. The grain used to create the bourbon is grown on land owned or leased by the distillery. They grow, grind, mash, distill, age and bottle right there on the farm. The bourbon is aged in new 53-gallon barrels with a #3 char. Spent mash is fed to the beef cattle they raise. 

Fast forward eight years and the bourbon, and the beef, is finally on sale. No, it's not an eight-year-old bourbon. But it isn't sourced, and it is straight. And both of those are to be commended. 

But how does it taste?

Ragged Branch Distillery Wheated Bourbon

Purchase Info: The producer kindly provided this 100mL sample for review purposes. It retails for $48.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Virginia ABC stores.

Details: 45% ABV. Made from a mash of 66% corn, 17% wheat and 17% malted barley.

Nose: Earthy with cinnamon candies, fresh cut lumber, dried fruit and creamed corn.

Mouth: Nice thick mouthfeel. Spicy and sweet with honey, allspice, cornbread and dried fruit. 

Finish: On the longer side of medium. It starts sweet and spicy but that fades into a warm drying sensation. 

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Thoughts: When I nosed this, I thought that it was going to taste very young. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the youth was tempered in the mouth. It's youth wasn't expressed as "new-makey" but instead as cornbread and a spicy brashness. Yes, it tasted young, but it is a very well put together bourbon and would be a great pickup for those whose palates run toward young bourbon. I like it, but for me, it still tastes a bit young to be a regular drinker. It would make a nice change of pace though.  

Ragged Branch Distillery Rye Bourbon

Purchase Info: The producer kindly provided this 100mL sample for review purposes. It retails for $48.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Virginia ABC stores.

Details: 45% ABV. Made from a mash of 66% corn, 17% rye and 17% malted barley.

Nose: Green apple, mint and rye spice. After a bit of time dried grain and buttered popcorn notes appear.

Mouth: Follows the nose with green apple, mint and rye spice. There is also some warm cinnamon candy as well. 

Finish: Warm, spicy and of medium length. I'm getting cinnamon candies and waves of spicy heat. 

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Thoughts: I am legitimately impressed by this bourbon. Most of the time when reviewing a craft bourbon you need to use words that show that it still tastes like a young bourbon. Recommending it to people that like that. This one doesn't need any of that. This is good. Period. I've got a trip this summer that will take me through Virginia. A bottle of this one is coming home with me. And I have a feeling it will not last long in the house.


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Old Pogue Master's Select - Revisited

Posted on by Eric Burke

A little over four and a half years ago, I last reviewed Old Pogue. It was a bottle that my wife liked to get whenever we would go to Kentucky. At the time, my take was: 

"Overall: I liked it. I'll certainly buy it again. It's not a go-to bourbon, but it'll do when the mood strikes."

In the intervening years, as bourbon stocks for sourcing have run low, the product has become much harder to find. being released only intermittently. But while at BourbonFest this past September, I started seeing it on the shelves again. This time the price had gone up considerably, having reached over $100 per bottle. 

I was reluctant to pay that much for it, and my wife was conflicted about it. Well, until she got a bidding number at the Master Distiller's Auction at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Then all of a sudden she could justify it as a charitable gift to the museum that happened to come with a bottle of bourbon. The distillery couldn't be reached for comment, so I'm not sure if it is a current bottle or an older batch, but in any case, a bottle came home with us in September.

Knowing that the source of the bourbon was probably quite different than it was previously, I was curious to see how the juice compared to what I had reviewed last time. Luckily back then, I used to keep a sample library of every purchase. And so I pulled out an Old Pogue sample and tasted them head-to-head. Here is what I found:

Old Pogue Master's Select: Batch 6822 

Purchase info: You don't really expect that I'll remember where I bought this back in 2012/13 do you? I didn't think so. But I want to say it was in the $40-50 range. 

Details: 45.5% ABV. Batch 6822 

Nose: Caramel, green apple, vanilla and baking spice.

Mouth: Lightly flavored with caramel, vanilla, and baking spice.

Finish: Gentle burn with lingering green apple and baking spice.

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Thoughts: This is good. It isn't a "knock-your-socks-off" powerhouse of a bourbon, but it is a very tasty one. It almost reminds me of one of the good batches of Angel's Envy, just without the port flavors. 

Old Pogue Master's Select: Batch 6899

Purchase info: Roughly $100 at the 2017 Master Distiller's Auction to benefit the Oscar Getz Museum in Bardstown, KY. (Suggested retail price is $110 for a 750 mL)

Details: 45.5% ABV. Batch 6899 

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, red fruit, cotton candy, wintergreen and floral notes.

Mouth: Cinnamon, mint, floral notes, along with wintergreen candy.

Finish: Warm with lingering wintergreen, mint, and spice notes.

Thoughts: While I used to enjoy Old Pogue, I never liked it quite as much as my wife did. I tend to like powerful bourbons (flavor not proof) that fill the mouth with flavor. So, I would normally leave the bottle for her to enjoy so that she could have more of it.

Not this time. This bottle has the kind of mouth-filling flavor that my wife will need to share. I like this very much. Not so sure I want to pay this much for it though.

In summary, these are very different. I really like the newer bottle better while my wife prefers the old one. Both of us prefer the old price, as you might expect.


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!