Jack Daniel's Single Barrel "Heritage Barrel"

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 the folks at Jack Daniel’s PR for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

When my wife is away for work, I have absolutely no willpower. I will eat the most lopsided, unnutritious meals just because they are easy. For example, last night I ate an entire container of microwave garlic mashed potatoes. That’s it. Nothing else. Just potatoes. Over the course of today, I opened and finished a box of four frozen, breaded chicken patties. I ate them for every meal. I made sandwiches out of them. At least they were organic, I guess. Though the cheese and bacon weren’t.

This lack of willpower also extends to my nightcap as well. But in this case, that lack of willpower manifests itself a little differently. See, instead of doing the easiest thing possible, I do the tastiest thing possible. Or, at least the tastiest thing that is close to hand. I’m not digging through the whiskey closet to open something new.

I mean, let’s not get crazy.

That little voice that would normally be telling me that an entire container of potatoes is not a meal is also the same one that would tell me that I should probably save that limited edition whiskey for when my wife is around to share it with me. That voice would, of course, be my wife’s and lucky for me she is in another state right now so there is no one around to tell me these things and I am free to act like an animal that has slipped its leash.

Tonight’s whiskey is one that was sent to me from Jack Daniel’s. It is their upcoming single barrel release that they call: Heritage Barrel. The company says that this release was aged in barrels that had “a deeper, richer toasted layer before being charred.” It was barreled at a lower proof than their regular releases and aged at the top of one of their aging warehouses before being bottled at 100 proof.

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel "Heritage Barrel"

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Jack Daniel’s for review purposes. Suggested retail is $64.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 50% ABV. Uses a more highly toasted barrel and a lower barrel entry proof than is standard for Jack Daniel’s.

Nose: Butterscotch pudding, french vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, allspice. Very dessert-like.

Mouth: Mellow and sweet, but with a nice spice to add complexity and balance the sweetness. Butterscotch pudding, vanilla, clove, and cinnamon.

Finish: Long and with a warmth that fades quick but then reappears in a bloom of warmth. Baking spices and butterscotch linger.

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Thoughts: The nose reminds me of bread pudding cooking in the oven. The mouth is mellow and sweet but brings a nice spice as well. I really like this, I am already planning on buying a full bottle when it hits shelves.


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Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2018

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 the folks at Buffalo Trace for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

I recently got samples of this year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. This post will be long enough, so tonight I’m going to forgo all the extremely witty banter I normally provide before the review and instead jump straight into the reviews.

But first, a moment of silence for my sample of Sazerac Rye 18 year old. I knew something was wrong when the box UPS handed me was wet. Not being one to cry over spilled whiskey, I posted the photo on Instagram and got a few likes. I thought briefly about tasting the foam padding but decided that a tongue full of glass probably wouldn’t taste all that good, even though it smelled delicious. I guess sometimes the Whiskey Fairy just wants a dram for herself.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 17 years old. 101° proof (up from previous years’ 90° proof). Distilled in the Spring of 2000. Aged on floors 1, 2, and 5 of Warehouse C.

Nose: Caramel candy, allspice, cinnamon candies, and almond.

Mouth: Nice mouthfeel with floral, caramel, leather and oak notes.

Finish: Nice and long. Ripe berries and floral notes transition to oaky notes of tobacco and dark chocolate.

Thoughts: I like this, but I don’t love it. I’m not a huge fan of bourbons once they reach their lower- to mid-teens. I am loving the floral notes on it, but there is a bit too much oak on this for my palate (my wife loved it though, she’s a fan of old oaky bourbons).

William Larue Weller

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 125.7° proof. Distilled in Winter 2006. Aged in Warehouses C, I, K, L, M and Q.

Nose: Very sweet. Chocolate covered cherries, the nougat from a Milky Way bar, vanilla, cinnamon.

Mouth: Cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, oak and campfire smoke.

Finish: Long and warm. Cinnamon and chocolate covered cherries linger.

Thoughts: Nice and warm. Very sweet. I like this one even though I’m not typically a fan of wheated bourbons.

George T. Stagg

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 124.9° proof. Distilled in Spring 2003. Aged in Warehouses C, H, I, K, P and Q.

Nose: Caramel, rich leather, ripe berries and pipe tobacco.

Mouth: Sweet with caramel, brown sugar, leather and pipe tobacco.

Finish: Long and warm. Very sweet. Lingering smoke and tobacco.

Thoughts: Rich is the first word that comes to mind on this one. Delicious is the second. I really like this one. It’s my favorite of the three bourbons.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 128.8° proof. Distilled in Spring 2012. Aged in Warehouses I and L.

Nose: Spearmint, cinnamon, hints of anise and banana bread.

Mouth: Caramel, spearmint, very hot, great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm. Spearmint, baking spices and just a touch of dill linger.

Thoughts: This is my favorite of the four. The bourbons were mostly sweet and this is a nice change of pace from that. It’s very warm, but not overpoweringly so even at full strength. I like this one a lot.

Thoughts:

This was my first time sitting down and tasting across the BTAC lineup (or, more accurately, 4/5th of the lineup). I’d had most of them in the past, but only one at a time. It was interesting to see how similar the bourbons were, even though there was a difference in proof and mash bill. There is some “Buffalo Trace Flavor” that comes through on each of them. It’s a testament to their quality control that the “house” flavor is present in both the bourbons distilled in our current decade and in the bourbons that were distilled in the decade previous. It means they aren’t messing around with things.

Thomas H. Handy is simultaneously the only one of the line I’d never tasted and the only one of the line I’ve ever seen on a retail shelf (years ago, before this year’s release was even distilled). It is a big, bold rye that has all the minty and herbal notes that I look for in a good rye. I was really impressed with it.

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I was impressed with them all in fact. I think they are worth every penny that Buffalo Trace is recommending they sell for. But based on the relative availability and quality of other bourbons in that price range, I don’t know that I would feel comfortable paying inflated retail or secondary prices for them.


UPDATE:

Buffalo Trace was kind enough to ship me a replacement bottle of the 18-year-old Sazerac Rye. My notes for it are below:

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 90° proof. Barrels filled in 1998.

Nose: Mint, bubble gum and almond.

Mouth: Follows the nose with mint, bubblegum and almond, then adds cardamom and nutmeg.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering mint, cardamom and almond.

Thoughts: I preferred the Handy Rye over this, as I preferred the relative “brightness” that it’s youth provided. That said, I also like this one a lot. When compared to the others in the range it is in the lower half.


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Booker's Bourbon: Batch 2018-03 "Kentucky Chew"

It’s the last post of Bourbon Heritage Month. Tonight we finish up the month by revisiting a bourbon that was provided to me specifically to coincide with Bourbon Heritage Month.

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 Jim Beam 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.

Do you ever get the feeling that life is flying by? That maybe life is too short to hold grudges? I do, and I have for a while. For some reason, that doesn’t seem to stop me from holding a few grudges anyway. Which seemed odd to me, until I come to the realization that I’d been hiding the grudge, even from myself. Let me set the stage for you.

It was 2016. I, like many bourbon lovers, had been getting frustrated by the rising prices and disappearing age statements for a while. It felt like one punch in the gut after another as one previously affordable bourbon after another either disappeared, lost their identity (age), or just plain became priced out of reach. Affordable luxury was how I, and many others, had always thought of bourbon. And then the announcement of the 2017 Booker’s Price Increase (from $59.99 to $99.99) came. There was understandable anger. It had been communicated in such a way that almost made it sound as if the near doubling of the price was being done just because they could.

But the company either changed their mind or their messaging (maybe both) and though a price increase was still there, it wasn’t as big. It was actually reasonable. From an MSRP of $59.99 to somewhere between $69.99 and $74.99 wasn’t terrible considering the newly supplied explanation of constrained supplies and reduced numbers of batches. Unlike many others, I wasn’t angry. That’s capitalism, I thought. They are free to charge what they want and I am free to either buy it or not based on if I think the price is fair.

But unfortunately, even though I thought that the latter price increase wasn’t too bad, a funny thing had occurred: the first announcement stuck in my head. And as such, in my mind, Booker’s moved from an affordable luxury at $50-60 (depending on the retailer) to a bottle that was priced in the range of limited edition bourbons that I only bought once per year or less.

It wasn’t true, but that’s what I mean about hiding the grudge from myself. Obviously just by looking at the shelf I knew that I wasn’t going to need to drop a hundred bucks on a bottle. But for some reason, I never thought of it because that $99.99 price was stuck in my brain along with the hard feelings that came with how it had been originally communicated.

But time passes. Grudges, even hidden ones, lose their sharp edges. And when the PR folks for Beam Suntory reached out to me to see what I was planning to do for Bourbon Heritage Month and offered a review sample of Booker’s, I took it. It had been a few years since I had purchased one and I thought it might be nice to see how it was coming along.

This particular batch was named for the now famous “Kentucky Chew” method of evaluating a bourbon originally made famous by the brand’s namesake Booker Noe. It is essentially the practice of moving the bourbon all around your mouth so it gets into all the little nooks and crannies, with the effect of making it looking like you’re chewing your bourbon. The batch was released in August 2018.

Booker’s Bourbon: Batch 2018-03 “Kentucky Chew”

Purchase Info: This sample was graciously provided by Beam Suntory. The suggested retail price is between $69.99 and $74.99 for a 750 mL bottle. 

Details: 63.35% ABV. Aged for 6 years, 4 months, 12 days.

Nose: Oaky notes of leather and vanilla. Spicy notes of allspice and cinnamon. Sweet notes of brown sugar and caramel.

Mouth: Brown sugar and baking spices.

Finish: Nice and long with a good “bloom” of heat and flavor after swallowing. Lingering notes of of green apple and baking spices.

 IMAGE: A hand-drawn smiley face

Thoughts: This is a great whiskey. Compared to other bourbons in it’s price range, this is still one of the best “regularly available” bourbons on the market. I think this bottle finally laid the last remnants of that hidden grudge to rest. I’ll be adding Booker’s back into the rotation of barrel-proof bourbons I buy.


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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.

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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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Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand 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. First up is Benchmark Bourbon from Sazerac.

It has been 1,266 days since I last posted tasting notes for Benchmark Bourbon. It wasn't a formal review as it was part of 2015's Bottom Shelf Brackets, but for the longest time, it was all I offered. Since I was out this weekend looking around at "affordable" options for bourbon, I thought it might be time to take another look at it. See if the intervening time has been kind to it. Back in 2015, I said the following:

It may only be three years old, but there is nothing to keep this from being a nice card playing bourbon.

Since I didn't talk about it last time around, let's go over a little history of the brand. The brand was originally launched by Seagram's in the late 1960s. During the 1970s, the ads for the brand told consumers to "Measure Your Bourbon Against It." By the late 1980s, the brand was up for sale and was purchased by Sazerac who used it and Eagle Rare (also purchased from Seagram's) to get into the bourbon business

These days, though it is still owned by Sazerac, it lives on the bottom shelf. It has an age statement of 36 months. It even has a few flavored spinoffs in the forms of Apple, Brown Sugar, and Peach whiskey flavored liqueurs. 

Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand Bourbon

Purchase Info: $13.49 for a 1-liter bottle at MGM Wine and Spirits, Burnsville, MN.

Details: Aged at least 36 months. 40% ABV

Nose: Green Apple Jolly Rancher candy, caramel.

Mouth: Caramel, mint, and after a little while a little spice builds up.

Finish: Short with a little lingering spice.

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Thoughts: My thoughts on this one have been solidly downgraded as time has gone on. With my first pour out of the current bottle, I thought it was a bit of a caramel bomb with undertones of Buffalo Trace. Pretty solid, though more of a "good enough" bourbon than a "good" one. When I did the tasting a few days later, I found it to be a little delicate in the mouth, but it was fine. Subsequent pours have just been really meh. While it might make an ok card playing or tv watching bourbon, for the price, I'd stick with Evan Williams Black or Bonded unless you really prefer those Buffalo Trace undertones. 


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