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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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King's Creek Tennessee Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

Last week I got an ad circular letting me know that King's Creek Tennessee Whiskey was Total Wine's Whiskey of the Month for March. I promptly forgot about that since I don't make a habit of buying whiskey on price, preferring instead to purchase most of the stuff I review based on how interesting I think I can make it. 

So when I got to the store and noticed that it was 9 years old, my curiosity was piqued. It was a "Spirits Direct" selection which normally means store brand, though there are exceptions. I was curious because a nine-year-old Tennessee whiskey could really only come from a few places. Mostly because there are only a few places in Tennessee that have been distilling and aging whiskey since 2008/2009.

So, what do we know about this? Not much. It is nice years old. It is 90° proof. It was bottled in Princeton, Minnesota so, since it is a Tennessee Whiskey, it is obviously sourced. Like I said, there are only a few places that have been around long enough to put this out so I'm thinking it is either Jack Daniel's, George Dickel, Prichard's or maybe the old Collier and McKeel since, based on my research/SKU's wonderful list, it seems that they may or may not be supplying Costco's Tennessee Whiskey as well.

Based on that, I thought I had pretty good odds of it being something decent. I mean, I'd had 9-year-old Dickel and it was delicious. I've had Prichard but I don't really remember it (I assume that I'd have remembered it if it was bad). Jack can make good whiskey. And that left the one that I knew nothing about except that they sold their brand to a California company that may or may not be supplying Costco. 

Well, now onto the important stuff: how does it taste?

King's Creek Tennessee Whiskey

Purchase Info: $39.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN.

Details: 9 years old, 45% ABV.

Nose: Dried Grain, oak, and peanut. 

Mouth: Cherry, dried grain, hints of spice. 

Finish:  Robitussin Cough Syrup. Long and gentle. 

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Thoughts: Oh please, let this finish stop! The flavor lasts forever and in this case that is not a good thing. You do not want Robitussin to be a lasting reminder of a whiskey and that is precisely what happens here. This is a terrible whiskey. I'll give it this. It would only be a meh if you didn't need to swallow it. But since we all swallow...nothing kinky...this is a hard pass. It is a mediocre mixer but neat? Just steer clear of this one. You can get a better Tennessee whiskey from the same store (Jack Daniel's) at less than half the price. Well, at least I know where my next prop whiskey will come from.


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Basil Hayden's Dark Rye

Posted on by Eric Burke

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

This is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the spooky theme of all the decorations. I love jack-o-lanterns. I love seeing the little kids in their costumes. And, I love the candy. 

Way back in college, I used to love the parties and the costumes too. But these days, I'm more grown up. I sit at home, hand out candy to the few kids brave enough to head around the neighborhood and watch a spooky movie. 

You wouldn't think I would be as happy for Halloween to get here as I am. Ignoring the calendar, before Halloween, it's Autumn. And even though I hate winter, I love Autumn. I love the crisp mornings with the hint of a warm afternoon. I love the fact that, on occasion, I can still get away with shorts and a t-shirt while doing lawn work. The idea that even if you get snow, it probably won't last. But after Halloween, it's winter. November in Minnesota means you are more likely to need a snow shovel than you are shorts. 

But in spite of all of that. In spite of the fact that it'll feel more like winter tomorrow than it does today, I still love Halloween. It feels good to indulge my inner child for one night and eat pizza, candy and drink some beer.

All of which has nothing to do with tonight's whiskey, Basil Hayden's Dark Rye. Basil Hayden's Dark Rye is the latest in the line of Basil Hayden brand extensions. It is a blend of Straight Rye whiskey from Kentucky, Canadian Rye whisky from Alberta Distillers, and Port. If this tickles a memory for you, that is because Beam already has a similar product on the market in Alberta Rye Dark Batch. That is a blend of Canadian Rye, Bourbon and Sherry. So similar, but not exactly the same. I didn't care for the Dark Batch, let's see how Dark Rye fares.

Basil Hayden's Dark Rye

Purchase info: $44.99 for a 750 mL at Lakeville Liquors, Lakeville, MN

Details: 40% ABV. A blend of Kentucky straight rye, Alberta Distillers Canadian Rye, and Port.

Nose: Strong caramel notes lead off. Baking Spice, citrus, and ripe red fruits follow. 

Mouth: Caramel, lots of baking spice, and ripe red fruits.

Finish: Short, but sweet with jammy wine notes dominating. 

Thoughts: I'm going to do something I almost never do. This is getting two ratings from me. 

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Neat: I was ok with it up until the finish. I don't care for most fortified wines outside of a cocktail and the finish being very wine forward was a problem for me. That said, there is nothing wrong with this if you like that sort of thing. So this gets a dislike from me when tasted neat. 

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Cocktails: Night and day difference. Because of the fortified wine notes, we first used it in a Manhattan. My wife thought it was ok, but I thought it was a little too sweet. Then I tried swapping the Vermouth in the Manhattan for Amaro (Ramazzotti is my house amaro), and it was really quite good. It accentuated the baking spice notes which was quite tasty. So tasty that I've used most of the rest of the bottle in various cocktails. I've personally favored the ones that feature bitter notes to play off of the sweet fortified wine finish. So it gets a like from me for use in cocktails because this has been a go-to for as long as it has been here.


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Collabor&tion

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 Ro-Bro Marketing and Public Relations, Bardstown Bourbon Company and Copper & Kings for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. 

While I was in Kentucky I was invited to a media event to announce the first product to be released by Bardstown Bourbon Company. I was a bit scared of the product, to be honest, they only started distilling a year ago and I was unsure what was going to be released. But my fears were allayed when I got the press release stating that the bourbon was sourced from MGP and was 10-years old. 

When I got to the distillery for the event, I came to the realization that there were actually two products. One was a barrel strength, brandy finished bourbon. And one was a barrel strength Mistelle finished bourbon. Which left me with just one question. What the hell is Mistelle?

Luckily they were kind enough to provide us a cheat sheet and so I will quote from that.

"A Mistelle barrel is a unique vessel. Mistelle is unfermented grape juice (in this case Muscat) fortified with un-aged brandy (Muscat eau-de-vie) and then aged in bourbon barrels for 18 months. The empty barrels are deeply and highly caramelized with the grape sugars and fruit essences."

So where did the barrels they used to finish the products come from? Well, that is the source of the name. Both the Mistelle and the Brandy were produced by Louisville's Copper & Kings Brandy. See it was a collaboration between the two companies that made this possible and from what I can tell, both were heavily involved in the final product.

Collabor&tion - Muscat Mistelle Finished

Purchase Info: I received a sample of this from the company at the launch event. SRP is $124.99 and can be purchased at the Copper & Kings gift shop and selected retailers around the country. 

Details: 47% ABV. 10-year-old MGP bourbon finished in Copper&Kings Mistelle barrels for an additional 18 months.

Nose: White grape juice, brown sugar, almost no whiskey notes on the nose.

Mouth: Very sweet with just a touch of spice at the tip of the tongue. White grape candy with clove and black pepper.

Finish: Warm and of decent length, but also very sweet. Lingering notes of white grape juice, spearmint, and baking spice.

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Thoughts: This one just isn't for me. Aside from a few varieties of baked goods, I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I don't like candy, I don't like most soda, and I don't like most liqueurs. That said, if you want a sweet grape whiskey liqueur but want it to have the proof of a whiskey, this might be right up your alley. I mean, it isn't a liqueur, but it tastes as sweet as one. Personally, I might have liked it better if they had taken this and then blended it back with more of the original straight whiskey. But that's just me.

Collabor&tion - Brandy Finished

Purchase Info: I received a sample of this from the company at the launch event. SRP is $124.99 and can be purchased at the Copper & Kings gift shop and selected retailers around the country. 

Details: 56.5% ABV. 10-year-old MGP bourbon finished in Copper&Kings Brandy barrels for an additional 18 months.

Nose: Baking spices, caramel, and oak. Hints of raisin appear after a bit.

Mouth: Sweet, spicy and relatively brandy forward. Notes of nutmeg, raisin, and caramel.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering grape, nutmeg, and caramel notes.

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Thoughts: Your thoughts on this will depend largely on how much you like both finished bourbons and brandy. I happen to enjoy both so this is a bit of a treat for me. It is scarily drinkable neat despite its high proof. The flavors are thick and rich. All in all, it is very tasty. (That said, there is no way I would pay $125 for this whiskey. Though that says more about my budget than it does about the quality of the whiskey.)


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What I mean when I say I like something (and more)

Posted on by Eric Burke

The germ of this article comes from one I originally posted in February of 2013. I think it's time to surface it again. I've cleaned it up a little since I think I've gotten better at writing in the last four years, but the basic idea behind my reviews haven't changed.

Everyone who writes about whiskey approaches things differently.  Some reviewers like to use numbers. Numbers make a review feel scientific because you've done some math. Some reviewers like to use stars. Stars are easy to visualize and are familiar to Amazon shoppers everywhere. I like to use various cartoon faces and hearts because I'm silly. Probably too silly for my own good. The point is that any and/or all of these are correct. They all adequately represent how much or how little a reviewer liked any given whiskey. But no matter how a writer presents it, we as readers need to remember that the rating is still just a subjective opinion.

It probably goes without saying, but I like bourbon. I enjoy it in many different ways. Sometimes I enjoy thoughtfully tasting bourbon. I pour it into a nosing glass, sit down, concentrate, and try to tease out all the little smells and tastes that are hidden inside the glass. And if it is interesting, I'll probably like it. Other times, I want to enjoy bourbon in a rocks glass while playing cards or watching tv or conversing with friends. I'm not paying a lot of attention to it, but if it tastes good and it's acting as a social lubricant, I'll probably like it. Sometimes I enjoy it in a cocktail. Even if it isn't great neat, if it makes a killer Manhattan, I'll probably like it. And if I like it, then I'll tell you I like it. And I'll put a little smiley face next to it. 

Sometimes I find a bourbon that doesn't taste good and isn't all that interesting. Needless to say, I don't like these. I've gotten pretty good at knowing what I like, and since I buy most of the whiskey reviewed on the site, the odds are that I'm not buying too many duds. But occasionally one slips through, or I buy one specifically for research purposes. When that happens, I'll tell you I dislike it and put a frowny face next to it.

Of course, some whiskeys are just...meh. There is nothing offensive about them. They don't taste bad. I don't dislike it, but I don't like it either. It's just sort of in the middle there for me. In such a case I'll just drop a neutral face on it.

Very occasionally I'll drop a heart on something. This means I love it. No ifs, ands, or buts. I'd take this whiskey over almost any other. 

So to recap:

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A heart means I loved this whiskey. I'd have to pause and think (briefly) if forced to choose between it and my wife. (shhhh... don't tell her)

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A smiley face means I liked the whiskey or I found it interesting while tasting it. Or I enjoyed myself while drinking it. Or I enjoyed the company I drank it with. Or I was having fun. Most bourbons and ryes will be in this category because, on at least some level, I like most bourbons and ryes I've tasted.

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A neutral face means meh. I didn't particularly like this whiskey, but I didn't hate it either. It wasn't for me. But you might like it.

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A frowny face means I really disliked this. I probably dumped it out or at least thought about dumping it out.

We all have different life experiences that color our perceptions. I taste JuicyFruit gum when I taste Four Roses. Other people might taste Jackfruit, but I've never had a Jackfruit, so I say JuicyFruit. Some people might taste almond in a whiskey. I'm allergic to nuts, so I only have an academic idea of what almonds taste like. If I use it as a tasting note, it will have come from my wife (we do the notes together). The point is that everyone will like different things and has had different experiences to inform their tastes. And that's pretty cool. It gives us something to talk about.


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!