Jefferson's Very Small Batch Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

It wasn't fair. In fact, you could say that—intentionally or not—it was set up to fail. You see the first time that I tried Jefferson's Bourbon it was part of a tasting that included the entire Four Roses line. Including that year's edition of the limited Small Batch (then called the Mariage). It was the night that I fell in love with Four Roses and the last time I tried a Jefferson's that was under $99 and 18 years old. It's not that I didn't think about trying it again, I just never did. 

Jefferson's is a non-distiller producer started in the late nineties by the father and son team of Chet and Trey Zoeller. Regarding the name, Reid Mitenbuler writes in Bourbon Empire: the Past and Future of America's Whiskey that the younger Zoeller says: "I had no marketing budget. I simply wanted a recognizable face associated with history and tradition." The choice is kind of odd when you think about it. Washington was a distiller. But according to the folks at Monticello, Jefferson not only didn't produce whiskey, he also didn't touch the stuff. In any case, since Jefferson's Bourbon is still being produced 20 years late, the name must have been a good choice.

Marketing aside, Jefferson's is doing something that few non-distiller producers are doing these days. They source their whiskey from a variety of distillers and blend them together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. It's this focus on blending that made me decide to go back and give them another shot. 

If they were just buying sourced whiskey from a single producer and dumping it into a bottle, I might have kept walking. But in the age of the single barrel, blending is an underappreciated art. Blending whiskey is hard. I've tried more than a few blending experiments, and in my experience, I make something better than the parts a little more than half the time. You just never know what is going going to play nicely and what isn't. At least not without a lot of experience and hard work. So I appreciate it when people not only do it well but hang their hat on it. 

Weirdly, that's also what appeals to me about the other bourbon from that first night.

Jefferson's Very Small Batch Bourbon

Purchase info: $28.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 41.15% ABV. Batch 524. Bottle 09845.

Nose: Light and fruity with vanilla and baking spice.

Mouth: Fruity mouth with cinnamon, caramel, and a nice peppery spice.

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Sweet vanilla which fades relatively quickly to reveal a nice spicy warmth.


Thoughts: This is quite tasty and more complex than I thought an "entry-level" product would be. I like this quite a bit. It's nice as a "change of pace" bourbon as it is pretty different from the other bourbons on my shelf. 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, visit Thanks!

Revisiting an Old Review: Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled in Bond

Posted on by Eric Burke


It has been fifteen hundred, eighty-two (1,582) days since I last reviewed Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond, Single Barrel. It was only the sixth post of what I consider to be the site's "modern era." It was about a year into the site's existence, and I had just gotten serious enough about it to shoot my own photography and start posting on a regular basis (before that there be just myths and legends with nary a bit of definable truths to be found). In other words, it's time to revisit to see how it (or I) have changed. 

At the time I was less than impressed by it. Though at this point, it is hard to know if it was more because of the packaging which looked like a kid's arts and crafts project or because I wasn't all that fond of hot bourbons. I rated it solidly meh. There was nothing wrong with it. It just wasn't right for my palate. 

But these days, as I venture far and wide in search of something new to review, I've found that I have developed a taste for high-proof, high-heat bourbons. There are days when that is all I want. Though, conversely, there are also days when I want nothing to do with them too. This bourbon punches above its proof in the spice department, which is nice. I can get my fix for high-proof whiskey and still feel like a second pour isn't off the table should the night call for it.

I like the new packaging too. Though I professed my love for it the first time I reviewed this, I noticed pretty quickly that as I got close to the end of the bottle that I was starting to worry if some of those pieces glued to the bottle might not fall off into my glass as I poured. It was a pretty rickety affair. And though the new label is fairly traditional, it does feel firmly affixed. 

Henry McKenna Single Barrel, Bottled in Bond

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: Bottled in Bond, 50% ABV, ten years old, barrel number 3325, barreled on 11/20/06.

Nose: Rich with notes of caramel, leather, and oak. 

Mouth: Syrupy mouthfeel with a good hit of spice.

Finish: Warm and long with lingering notes of caramel, leather, and oak.


Thoughts: This whiskey is everything I remember, but time has changed how I view it. As I said, back in 2013, I wasn't a fan of big, high-burn bourbons. Now I like them as much as I do other styles of fully matured bourbon. I'm really digging this bourbon. It is rich, spicy, and complex. It just about perfectly captures that stereotypical "bourbon" flavor profile. I'm upgrading my thoughts on this one; it is now very much a "like." 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, visit Thanks!

Mr. Boston Drinks website

Posted on by Eric Burke

I don't make a lot of cocktails. Wait, check that. I make a ton of cocktails, they just all happen to be a variation of the Manhattan. And over the course of the last couple years, I've been trying to expand my horizons. Which is why last year when Sazerac launched the Mr. Boston site, I bookmarked it.

And then waited a year to remember that I had done so.

Last week, I was cleaning up my bookmarks when I remembered it was there. Of course, this seemed like a great excuse to put it through its paces and see if I could find anything interesting. 

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Boston was started as a distillery in, you guessed it, Boston in 1933. Within a few years, they were publishing their Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide to help promote their products. For the next 77 years, the company and its various owners published the book with the last edition being published in 2012. In 2009, Sazerac bought the brand and its guide as part of their purchase of the Barton Distillery and brands. According to the company, they immediately started working on bringing the venerable old publication into the modern age by putting it online. 

And this is the part that I find pretty cool. They have digitized the records of every edition they could lay their hands on. That means, if a drink was in multiple editions, you can swap back and forth between the editions to see how the recipe has changed over time. I find that pretty cool and is a step that many companies wouldn't have bothered to take since it probably took a lot of extra time and money to accomplish.

So is the site any good? Yeah. I love it. It's designed with a cool Art Deco feel that is very appropriate for a site that celebrates a history that goes back to when Art Deco was cool the first time. It is easy to use both on the desktop and on your phone. The directions come with an image of the glass you might want to use and a difficulty level so that you know what you are getting into. You can search for recipes by ingredient or name or you can use a "Discover" option that allows you to find recipes based on an event or occasion. If you log in, using Facebook or Google, you can save your favorites and even add your own recipes. 

While doing research over the last week or so, I decided to try as many new cocktails as I could find. I have limited ingredients in the house and even so, I was able to find more than I had time to drink. I even learned that my homemade cranberry juice goes well with bourbon. I have a feeling that I am going to be keeping this particular bookmark and trying a lot of new options. 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, visit Thanks!

Jack Daniel's Red Dog Saloon

Posted on by Eric Burke

Jack Daniel's Red Dog Saloon is a limited release whiskey from Brown Forman's Jack Daniel's distillery. The brand tells us that they released it to commemorate the 125th Anniversary of the opening of a saloon by Jack Daniel. A casual Google search of the subject brings up no mention of Jack Daniel's saloons. Well, none that are not either from the Jack Daniel's website or liquor stores/reviewers talking about this product. Still, not knowing much of the history of Lynchburg, Tennessee, I have no real reason to doubt that statement as it seems plausible enough that a whiskey maker in a small town might have a saloon or two as well during the late 1800s. 

Of course, we all know the history of Jack Daniel's well enough. Taught how to make whiskey by a local slave, Jack Daniel launched a distillery (and it seems some saloons). He passed the business to his nephew. Along the way, Prohibition forced the distillery out of Tennesee and then out of business. The family eventually sold the brand and business to Brown-Forman who grew the brand into the number one selling American Whiskey in the world. During the American whiskey slump of the 80s and 90s, they lowered the proof from 90° proof to 86° and then from 86° proof to 80° in the early 2000s. Today they still sit at 80° proof, but they've started to give a nod to folks who want a bit more by doing barrel strength versions, rye whiskey versions and limited releases like Red Dog Saloon.

Jack Daniel's Red Dog Saloon

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 43% ABV, non-age-stated. 

Nose: Caramel rolls, spearmint, banana, and baking spice.

Mouth: Mint, subtle spice, banana, and caramel.

Finish: Warm and of medium length with lingering notes of mint, spice, and caramel rolls.


Thoughts: Hands down, better than the standard Jack. The flavors are similar, that Jack Daniel's Banana note is still there, but in this case, it is supported by more caramel and spice. I don't know if it is the six degrees of proof difference between this and standard Jack or if it is barrel selection, but it makes me wish that they hadn't lowered the proof way back when. But they are the largest selling American Whiskey brand, and I'm not so what do I know? As long as they keep putting out affordable options such as this, I guess it'll be ok. 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, visit Thanks!

Watkins Select Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

One of the many ways I make money right now is as a dog sitter. I have dogs, so watching a couple of extra is something that isn't too far removed from what I am already doing during the day. Plus, I can do it while working on any other client work I have. 

Most of the dogs I watch are very well behaved, but one of the ones I am currently watching is...well...he pooped on my rug. Twice. On two separate days. Plus he doesn't listen when you try to get him to come in from outside. 

He's a sweet boy, only ten months old, and very affectionate. Still, I'm having a hard time getting past the not listening and rug pooping. I'm assuming he doesn't do this at home since I require that all dogs be house-trained. Maybe he does. I guess I'm not there and some people are willing to try to pull a fast one on you.

I'm pretty sure he won't be coming back. That makes me a little sad. He's young, still a baby of sorts. But obviously not well trained, which isn't his fault. But sometimes those are the breaks. You take a chance on something, hope it will turn out as good as others, and then are disappointed.

Speaking of which, Watkin's Select Bourbon is a Total Wine Exclusive that is bottled in California. It isn't a TerrePure whiskey like some of the others, but it didn't come from Buffalo Trace either. I thought I'd take a chance on it. Read on to see if it pooped on my rug. 

Watkins Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Purchase Info: $1.99 for a 50 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN (a 750 mL bottle runs $16.99)

Details: 36 months old. 40 % ABV

Nose: Grain forward with vanilla, wintergreen, sugar snap peas, and a mineral note.

Mouth: Dried Grain, wintergreen, and black pepper.

Finish: Short and grainy with a hint of residual spice.


Thoughts: There is absolutely nothing wrong with this that more age wouldn't fix. But, as it stands, I find this very meh. If you are a fan of inexpensive, grain-forward bourbons, then you should give this a shot. But if you like a little more age on your bourbon, give this a hard pass. 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, visit Thanks!