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Ezra Brooks Rye

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. 

About a month ago, an email landed in my inbox announcing the new Ezra Brooks Rye. I was curious, but then I saw the Distilled in Indiana prominently on the front label. I needed content, and I love MGP's 95% Rye whiskey, but I wasn't sure that reviewing yet another would be all that interesting. Ultimately, I decided to pull the trigger and see about getting a sample sent, mostly because I'm liking the moves that Luxco is making lately. 

When I opened the box and saw that the product was only two years old, my expectations for this whiskey sank a bit. I know that rye performs better at a young age than bourbon does, but in the past, I have not been a fan of the ones I've had.

I decided to spend a couple of weeks with this before writing my review. As they were kind enough to send a full bottle, the least I could do was run it through its paces in a variety of situations and glasses. 

From my first taste, I noticed something about this. It didn't really taste like your typical 95% MGP rye. There were certain family resemblances, to be sure. But it wasn't quite right, which got me to thinking.  

A few of years ago, April-ish of 2013 to dial that in a bit, MGP Ingredients announced they were expanding the number of whiskey recipes that they would be producing and offering to their customers. Included in that announcement were the following:*

  • A Rye whiskey made from 51% rye and 49% barley malt
  • A Rye whiskey made from 51% rye, 45% corn and 4% barley malt

As production was scheduled to start later that April, the very first product off the still would be a few months shy of four years old now. Plenty old enough to blend a few different barrels together and end up with a product that had to be called two years old (remember you have to go by the youngest whiskey in the bottle). 

Is Ezra Brooks Rye one of the new MGP rye recipes? I reached out to Luxco's PR Agency for comment, and they were unwilling to give exact mash bill info. They did say that there was a little corn in the recipe, though. And that leads me to believe that at least some of the juice is the second recipe above. Is it all that recipe? Is there a mingling of two or three rye mash bills? No idea. What I do know is that it's from Indiana and has rye and corn in it. 

Oh, and that it tastes pretty good in spite of its age.

Ezra Brooks Rye

Purchase info: This sample was provided by Common Ground PR, but I've seen it listed online for less than $20 for a 750 mL.

Details: Two years old. 45% ABV.

Nose: Cinnamon red hots, soap, brown sugar, and a faint citrus note. 

Mouth: Sweet and spicy. Honey, cinnamon red hots, clove, ginger, and lemon zest.

Finish: Medium length with lingering ginger and lemon zest.

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Thoughts: This is young, but tastes pretty good in spite of that. I'm really enjoying the almost "ginger beer" quality of the ginger and lemon zest notes. I tried this in a couple of cocktails, and it got a bit lost. But on the other hand, I've enjoyed almost half the bottle neat to this point, so that says something I guess. If you see this somewhere, I'd recommend giving it a try.

UPDATE: This post contains an update to clarify who's PR Agency confirmed the use of corn in the mashbill.


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*Sources: 
MGPingredients.com News Release. (Accessed 2/28/17)

Jim Beam Choice, an unintentional dusty find.

Posted on by Eric Burke

It has been quite the day. I had to meet with my tax accountant today. My tax bill is...well...let's just say that it is much more than I had hoped but less than I had feared. Sadly it's closer to the fear than the hope. Anyway, it's a day where I feel like drinking whiskey. And based on the current set of my financial situation, it had better be something fairly inexpensive. 

As you might have guessed based on the last month, I've been slowly gathering materials for a series of If You've Had... posts. One of the ones I thought might be fun was Jim Beam. Not the entire line, but the ones that most people can afford. White , Black, Double Oak, Bonded, Devil's Cut, Green, etc.

Wait? Green? What the heck is Jim Beam Green? Well, these day's it is nothing. It is no longer sold. But back in the days when Jim Beam thought that age statements were a good thing, it was the middle of the road offering between NAS white label and 8-year-old Black label. Named Jim Beam Choice officially, the green labeled version came in at a stated five years old. These days, according to the Beam PR rep I talked to, you might find it on a shelf, but it is no longer a product Beam sells. This is just me guessing, but when the eight-year went NAS, I'm guessing that the taste distinction between the Black and Green got a little hard to decipher with the result being that Choice joined the ranks of discontinued brands.

When I bought the bottle in September, I had no idea it was a dusty.  But there you go. I guess you just got to keep your eyes open. You never know what you'll run across. For instance, I saw a Jim Beam Rye Yellow label on a shelf today if anyone is in the market for an 80 proof rye from Beam.

Jim Beam Choice, 5-year-old green label

Purchase Info: $13.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN (September 2016)

Details: 5 year age stated. 40% ABV.

Nose: Mint, apple, allspice, and honey.

Mouth: Thin mouthfeel and delicately flavored. Sweet granulated white sugar, allspice along with a light chamomile and peanut. 

Finish: Medium, but gentle with lingering chamomile and allspice notes. 

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Thoughts: This bottom-shelf dweller ranks a good step above its white-labeled brother. Whether it is better or worse than Jim Beam Black is a matter of how much you like that "Jim Beam" waxy pencil/peanut flavor that both black and white have in abundance. This has a lesser "Beam" presence than I remember from either of them. It feels mostly like a Beam version of Evan Williams Black, just not quite as good. Not a bad whiskey, but not one the world is likely to miss.


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If You've Had...Heaven Hill Edition

Posted on by Eric Burke

I like learning things. I'm sure you do too, otherwise, why would you waste your time learning about bourbon? One of the best ways to really learn the differences between bourbons is to compare them head-to-head. That's the theory behind the If You've Had... series. 

In case you missed it last time, the setup is like this: "If you've had Whiskey A then Whiskey B is..." hotter, spicier, sweeter, more floral, etc. Each section is written as compared to one of the whiskeys. So if you've had that one, but not the others, then that section will be of the most use to you. Remember there are no value judgments here. You get to decide based on what you know of Whiskey A if Whiskey B sounds like something you'd want to try.

Up tonight is the family of Heaven Hill-branded bourbons. Heaven Hill Black is a three-year-old bourbon bottled at 80 proof, Heaven Hill Green is a six-year-old bourbon bottled at 90 proof, and Heaven Hill White is a six-year-old Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon bottled at 100 proof. So without further ado, I present the fifth installment of the If You’ve Had… series. 

If you've had Heaven Hill Black, then...

Heaven Hill Green is: similar on the nose, but with less grain influence. It shows less grain in the mouth but has more heat, mint, baking and pepper spices, and oak. The finish is longer, warmer, and shows more oak.

Heaven Hill White is: much sweeter on the nose, showing much more maple and caramel and less grain. The mouth is much spicier, showing both baking and pepper spices. It also presents more fruit and oak. The finish is longer, warmer, and sweeter with more baking spice and wintergreen.

If you've had Heaven Hill Green, then...

Heaven Hill Black is: similar on the nose, but showing more grain and much less oak influence. The mouth shows much younger: less oak, more grain, with a certain new-make quality about it. The finish is smoother and softer with more lingering grain and cotton candy.

Heaven Hill White is: sweeter on the nose, showing more caramel. The mouth is similar, though sweeter showing bubble gum that the green doesn't have. The finish is warmer and shows more spice.

If you've had Heaven Hill White, then...

Heaven Hill Black is: similar on the nose, but showing more grain influence. The mouth shows more grain bitterness. The finish is smoother, softer and more gentle.

Heaven Hill Green is: slightly less sweet on the nose. It is slightly softer on the mouth and slightly less sweet. The finish is sweeter but less spicy.


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Heaven Hill 6 year old, Green Label

Posted on by Eric Burke

It was about two and a half years ago that I first became aware of the Heaven Hill brand of bourbons as they stand today. 

Well, that's not exactly accurate. On my very first trip to Kentucky, I had a miniature bottle of Heaven Hill Bonded (White Label) that came with the glass I purchased at their gift shop. I thought it was good, but I didn't have much to compare it to yet. Oh, and I used to occasionally buy the Gold Label Bonded when it was still available locally. But after that went away, I pretty much stopped thinking about the Heaven Hill brand.

Until about two and a half years ago, that is. I was putting together the beginnings of the idea that would blossom into the "If You've Had..." series of posts when I happened upon Heaven Hill Bonded (White Label). I was planning to do a post comparing all of Heaven Hill's bonded bourbons and picked it up. Somewhere between the time I bought it and the time I decided to review it, Fred Minnick had decided to give the green label version some good publicity. 

And that brings me to my last trip to Kentucky. If you followed me on Instagram about that time, you might have seen a cart filled with a combination of White Label and Green Label bottles. Filled because I loved the white label for the price. But since Fred recommended the Green, I grabbed a few of those too. 

But now I'm down to my last bottle. I've been saving it to do another installment of "If You've Had..." this time on just the three Heaven Hill Branded Bourbons (look for that next week) and I realized I'd never reviewed this formally. So now...this.

Heaven Hill 6-Year-Old, Green Label

Purchase Info: $9.49 for a 750 mL bottle at the Party Source, Bellevue, KY (September 2016).

Details: 6 years old. 45% ABV

Nose: Leather notes combine with mint, brown sugar and hints of ripe fruit.

Mouth: Sweet with a peppery heat. Brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mint.

Finish: Long and lingering. Sweet, but after a moment bitter dark chocolate notes appear.

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Thoughts: This is a very tasty bourbon. There's enough heat and complexity to keep you interested, but not so much it'll distract you from other things that might need your attention (like writing this post, for instance). It's good enough to drink neat in a pinch but is sufficiently inexpensive that you can use it in a cocktail without hesitation. This is a very versatile bourbon that is easy to recommend for the price. Think of it as the slightly lower proof Heaven Hill version of Wild Turkey 101. About the same age with all that brings to the table.


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1792 High Rye and a Look at Whiskey Geeks

Posted on by Eric Burke

Last week I asked a question that I thought was just going to be a bit of fun. The premise was that Whiskey Geeks complain. It's what we do. As a friend of mine once said while giving a bourbon talk, "we're a bitchy lot." 

And it's true. We whiskey geeks are a passionate, opinionated people. If you ask a whiskey "expert" how you should take your bourbon, the answer will range from "drink it any damn way you want," to "no, here's the type of glass you should use and the setting you should be in." And that's just if the topic is ice. If you ask them about soda...Well, let's just say I almost had a bartender in Louisville start to tear up as he recounted a customer asking for a Pappy and Coke.

About the only topic that causes as much consternation is flippers. Geeks bitch about flippers. They bitch constantly and conspicuously. Partly it's because flippers contribute to a market where those who wants to drink a whiskey can no longer find it through legal channels or for anywhere near MSRP. Partly it's because a good portion of those people conspicuously bitching are just over-compensating for their own flipping. 

So that's where things sat when I asked which people would rather see. I thought it would be a little fun, a few people would vote, and we'd get some laughs. What I didn't expect was to have to turn off comments on the post. I didn't expect every comment that came in to be an attack on those people participating. I saw "mouth-breathers." I saw "big-brother." I saw "Marxist." Eventually, I had enough and made one scolding comment and shut the rest off. The idea of whiskey geeks being whiskey geeks seemed to have touched a nerve. 

One thing I never did was answer the question myself. And for me, the answer is easy. I'd much rather see someone truly enjoy a Pappy with Coke than see someone keep another from enjoying a bottle by flipping it. And it seems that most of you agreed with me. As of this writing, 73% of respondents voted the same way. 11% hated polls and thought that voting was stupid. Leaving only 17% of people who'd rather the price of a particular bottle get jacked through the roof than see it wasted with soda. For the record, there is no right answer...which is what makes it so much fun to argue about it.

So that's a recap. But let's turn away from what other people do with a limited edition whiskey and turn our thoughts to what we'd all like to do with one. Drink it. Tonight it's Valentine's Day, so it is appropriate that we are celebrating with one that my wife loves. 

1792 High Rye

Purchase Info: 49.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 47.15% ABV. According to the company's website. This uses "a much higher percentage of rye as the secondary grain than most bourbons do." 

Nose: Butterscotch, custard, cinnamon, mint and a pleasant nuttiness. 

Mouth: Sweet and spicy with allspice, butterscotch and hints of mint and banana. 

Finish: On the longer side of medium, with very little burn. Lingering mint and banana. 

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Thoughts: Like I said above, my wife loves this. She put a little heart as her rating in her tasting journal. Me? I like this a lot, but I'm not quite ready to give it a heart just yet. It's very close, though. 

As I was finishing the tasting, thoughts of banana bread popped into my head. This is sweet with baking spices and hints of banana, so that isn't an outrageous comparison. And personally I love banana bread, so this is a compliment. I do know that some people react negatively to banana notes in their bourbon so be aware. 

Like I said, for $50, I think this is a great whiskey and worth the price they are getting for it. I'd feel differently if they were asking $75 for it, though. 


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!

For the record, comments are off on this one too. Mostly because it's the same topic and I hate getting the emails that are full of spite and hatred. It's a bit of a gut-punch to an otherwise nice day. It's whiskey...it's not worth all the anger.