Corner Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Revisited

It's the first week of Bourbon Heritage Month so I thought I'd take a look back and revisit a couple of older brands. Tonight's is Corner Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Though Corner Creek is older for a "modern" bourbon brand, it isn't a historic one. The brand has been around since 1988. In his 2004 book, Bourbon Straight, Chuck Cowdery wrote about it being a "4-grain" bourbon. Though he admitted it was likely a mix of Rye and Wheated styles. He liked it when he wrote the book.

I did not agree when I published my first review in 2012. 2,088 days ago to be exact, on December 19, 2012. It was only the 8th whiskey review I'd published on the site. But it might have been one of the earlier sets of tasting notes that I'd put down to paper since in that post I was publishing tasting notes from a year prior to that. At the time, I was not a fan. Though I was too timid in yet to say so and gave it a "meh" rating. 

At the time of my review, it was sold in a tinted green wine bottle. It was still sold that way when I purchased my first bottles sometime in 2010/2011. I'm not sure who the brand owner was at the time, but the label was submitted for approval by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (Willett) out of Bardstown, KY. Not surprising since they did a nice bit of business sourcing whiskey and bottling it for brands other than their own. 

These days, the wine bottle is still around, but it is now clear. I'm still not sure who the brand owner is, but the most recent label approval was submitted by Kentucky Artisan Distillers out of Crestwood, KY. These are the same folks who house the Jefferson's Bourbon Visitor Center and, I assume, have a hand in that brand as well. The name has changed slightly in the intervening years as well. Until the most recent label approval, this was always known as Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whiskey. Now it is Corner Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Corner Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Purchase Info: $29.99 for a 750 mL bottle at MGM Wine and Spirits, Burnsville, MN.

Details: 44% ABV. Non-age Stated. 

Nose: Fruity and aromatic. You can catch the fruitiness on this one as you pour it into the glass. Along with that are dried grass, mint, and caramel. 

Mouth: Slightly underripe peaches (just before they turn into a sweet juicy mess), caramel and nutmeg. 

Finish: Medium length and dry. Lingering fruit and nutmeg.

 IMAGE: A hand-drawn smiley face

Thoughts: I like this much more than I did 6 years ago. And I don't think that is as much of a reflection on the relative bourbons as it is on how my palate has changed while I've been writing here. I'm much more open to flavor profiles that are out of the ordinary than I was back then.

This is certainly a "change-of-pace" bourbon, but it isn't a bad one. In that respect, it reminds me of Jefferson's. Both are a little outside the typical bourbon flavor gamut. It is very fruity, almost reminding more of a fruit brandy than a bourbon. Overall, I like it. I'm upgrading this to a "Like" rating.


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Lonehand Tennessee Whiskey

What happens when you try to make a bottle of your whiskey look like a bottle of Jack Daniel's? You get sued. That's what happens.

So guess what happened to the makers of Lonehand Tennessee Whiskey when they put out a Tennessee Whiskey in a bottle that had a fairly close resemblance to Jack? Jack Daniel's sued them for Trademark and Trade Dress infringement. (Though not for the bottle I bought and show above, the mini bottle doesn't have the same features as the big ones.)

In fact, that lawsuit is the only reason I knew of the brand as I was wandering through my nearest Total Wine location. I first read about the lawsuit/heard of the brand in late April 2018. The Spirits Business, in the course of their reporting on the suit, stated that it was Brown-Foreman's position that the whiskey had received “highly critical customer reviews, indicating that said product is of inferior quality.” 

In other words, Jack Daniel's sued Lonehand and their owners for infringement and then called them lousy whiskey on top of it. I find that funny as hell. 

So of course, I had to buy a bottle. I mean, not a full bottle, that would be silly. No, I bought a 50mL bottle. Trying bad whiskey is my idea of an extreme sport, it's something I do just for the experience. But it's not like I'm about to jump off this particular cliff more than once, so I did not need more than 50 milliliters. 

But all this talk of lawsuits makes one wonder why anyone would think that taking on Jack Daniel's is a good idea. Maybe they read the history of Ezra Brooks, a brand that did the same thing back in the late 1950s and is still around today. 

In any case, I don't know if it means anything but the website for the brand owner is not working as of this writing, so maybe the odds aren't great that Lonehand will be the next Ezra. But what do I know? Maybe in 20 years, Sipp'n Corn will be writing a post about how Lonehand took on Jack and survived. 

Lonehand Tennessee Whiskey

Purchase Info: $1.49 for a 50mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 40% ABV

Nose: Grain, light butterscotch, buttered popcorn

Mouth: Spice at the beginning that fades quickly. Dried grains, slight sweetness as it moves back.

Finish: Short. Sweet with lingering notes of buttered popcorn

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Thoughts: Hard pass on this one from me. It's not terrible, but there are better Tennessee whiskeys out there. And if the price is the issue, there are also better and cheaper bourbons out there. I woulnd't bother with this one.


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Jefferson's Reserve

When you go into a restaurant, do you expect that said restaurant has grown the vegetables they are serving you? Do you assume that they bred,  raised, and slaughtered the cow that your steak was once part of? If you know that they are sourcing their ingredients from somewhere else, do you demand to know what farm they sourced them from? Of course, some restaurants pride themselves on doing just these things. But does it make you mad that not every restaurant does? Do you loudly proclaim to the internet that you have a right to know who the restaurant's suppliers are and propose boycotts of restaurants that can't tell you?

Now, what if that restaurant is not a restaurant, but is instead a whiskey producer? If you know that the whiskey producer is not distilling the whiskey, do you loudly proclaim to the internet that you have a right to know who they sourced their ingredients from? 

Of course, there is a difference between a restaurant and whiskey producer. Namely that most restaurants do not also claim to be growers of vegetable and raisers of beef cattle. And until relatively recently, many Non-Distiller Producers (NDPs) did claim to be distillers. And of course, some still do. But I think it is sensible to point out those that are transparent about the fact that they didn't "kill the cow" and are instead specializing in being "an excellent chef." Using the ingredients that they source—in this case, bourbons—to create something different from and hopefully better than what they started with.

Based on my reading this is what the folks who produced tonight's whiskey are saying. Jefferson's acknowledges they didn't distill the bourbons that went into their product. They do seem proud of the fact that they have blended them together into something they like more. 

In the end, though I value folks that grow and raise food, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a good chef.

Jefferson's Reserve

Purchase Info: $54.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Savage Liquors - HyVee, Savage, MN

Details: 45.1% ABV

Nose:  Floral and fruity with vanilla, oak, and baking spice. 

Mouth: Nice tingly baking spice and very floral with a hint of fruitiness. 

Finish:  Warm and of decent length. Initial notes of bubblegum transition to lingering notes of baking spice. 

 IMAGE: a hand-drawn smiley face

Thoughts: I like this. It is a nice "change of pace" bourbon that is quite unlike the stereotypical bourbon flavor profile. It's one of those that you turn to when you want something a little different but not so different that you are looking at a different spirit entirely. The flavor reminds me a lot of Canadian Club but with more bourbon backbone. It's interesting.


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Good reviews and High West American Prairie Bourbon

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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Bottom-Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2018: The Championship Rounds

Well, it's finally here. The championship rounds. This year was an interesting one for me on a couple of levels. For one, it was the first year that had guest judges. I have an idea that I may expand it further next year. This feels like it could be a fun party game for whiskey folk, provided the sips are restricted and everyone has a driver. Secondly, it is also the first year that I didn't restrict the competition to bourbon. I included corn whiskey and rye whiskey and sort of expected that corn would fold and rye would reign supreme. I was sorta right on the corn whiskey, it was a little too delicate to win against the flavorful rye, but it was no pushover. 

So now here we are. We are at the Last Four (Final Four being a registered trademark of a very litigious entity, there is no way I will use those two words together in a bracket post...): Old Grand Dad Bonded vs Two Stars and Old Forester vs Ezra Brooks Rye. Three bourbons and a rye. Let's see if rye reigns supreme or if bourbon can hold on to the odds. 

Division 1, Round 2: Two Stars (A) vs Old Grand-Dad Bonded (B)

Nose: Whiskey A is drier with more grain present while whiskey B is sweeter but shows a bit more alcohol. Winner: Draw.

Mouth: Whiskey B is sweeter but also shows a lot more grain notes. Whiskey A is more of a well-integrated whole, though it is a tad more delicate. Winner Whiskey A.

Finish: The finish on Whiskey A is a bit harsher and drier. Whiskey B is really good though and it has no obvious plusses or minuses to it.Winner Whiskey B. 

Thoughts: I'd say that Whiskey B wins this one on the strength of a better mouthfeel and a much tastier finish. Old Grand-Dad Bonded is moving on. 

Division 2, Round 2: Ezra Brooks Rye (A) vs Old Forester (B)

Nose: Whiskey A has a spicy ginger note while Whiskey B is pretty generic with sweet caramel.  Winner: Whiskey A.

Mouth: Whiskey A is spicy and fun but a bit thin. Whiskey B is sweet and spicy with a nice mouthfeel. It is close but the Winner is Whiskey A

Finish: Whiskey A shows ginger and citrus while Whiskey B is sweet and fruity. This comes down to personal taste. Winner: Whiskey A.

Thoughts: This one is tough. I adore the fun aspects of Whiskey A. I think it is bright and vibrant and I'm digging the citrus notes. On the other hand, I really like the sweet flavors, the nice mouthfeel, and the fruity finish of Whiskey B. Gun to my head? Winner: Ezra Brooks Rye. 

Championship Round: Old Grand-Dad Bonded (A) vs Ezra Brooks Rye (B)

Nose: Whiskey B is a spicy soda, Whiskey A is a dusty rickhouse. Winner: Draw.

Mouth: Whiskey A is sweet with a lovely mouthfeel. Whiskey B is spicy with a ginger ale flavor. Winner: Draw

Finish: Whiskey A is long with more sweetness. Whiskey B is also long, but is spicy. Winner: Draw.

Thoughts: Sometimes the tasting notes of bloggers make it look like we value the individual parts of a whiskey more than the whole. Though these two whiskeys are different, I liked them both, just in different ways. I like the spiciness of Whiskey B and I like the lovely mouthfeel of Whiskey A. There was a draw on every indiviual metric. And, though it was really close, when taken as a whole the Winner is Old Grand-Dad Bonded. 

Lessons learned

So was I shocked by anything this year? Not really. I was surprised that Old Forester beat Four Roses for every participant, but not enough to call it shocking. I was mildly surprised that a four seed beat a one seed, but when you notice that it is rye vs corn whiskey it is less surprising. Going into the final rounds I had guessed that Old Forester could very possibly be my winner, but wasn't shocked that a rye whiskey beat a bourbon. Even if it was only two years old.

Overall, I thought that there could very possibly be five winners in the initial grouping. I wouldn't have been surprised at any of Old Grand-Dad, Old Forester, Four Roses, Ezra Brooks and I thought that Mellow Corn had an outside shot. Because I worried that the seeding worked against them I went ahead and tried an alternate seeding. I put all the bourbon on one side and matched corn vs corn and rye vs rye on the other. Ezra Brooks beat Old Overholt and Mellow Corn defeated Hirsch, with Ezra Brooks rye still advancing to the finals. On the Bourbon side, Old Grand Dad beat Four Roses on the strength of a good mouthfeel and Old Forester beat Two Stars. Old Grand Dad then defeated Old Forester and advanced to the finals where the result was the same. Overall, I'm satisfied that the best whiskey (for my palate)won.


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