Jefferson’s 10 Year Straight Rye Review

 

TJ

Today’s review is of Jefferson’s 10 year-old rye whiskey, sourced from Alberta Distillers in Canada.  Alberta Distillers has become famous for their rye, with Whistle Pig and Masterson’s garnering positive reviews along with the Jefferson’s rye.  As with their bourbons, there is no Jefferson’s Distillery that is distilling the whiskey sold under the Jefferson’s label.  However, they have certainly gained a reputation for bottling some very good whiskey, despite the fact that all Jefferson’s is doing is bottling the juice.  Jefferson’s is made from a 100% rye mash-bill, is 10 years old and bottled at 94 proof (47% abv).

 

On the nose, this is a classic rye whiskey, with big, straight-forward rye bread, a little vanilla, evergreen, pine sap, and a little black licorice.  The palate is full-bodied and rye all the way through.  There are notes of rye spice, rye bread, pine needles, oak, spearmint, and vanilla extract.  The finish is medium in length, with some lingering evergreen notes and vanilla flavors.

 

Overall, this is a wonderful rye whiskey that really hits the mark if you are a lover of rye whiskey.  It definitely performs well at its price point, especially considering that some of the other ryes from Alberta Distillers are twice the price of Jefferson’s.  It is sharp, spicy, full-bodied, and full of wonderful rye character.  My grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  If you are in the mood for a good rye, look no further than this one (and it won’t break the bank, either).

 

Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength Irish Whiskey Review

In my protest against the debauchery of St. Patrick’s Day, I waited until after March 17th had passed to review one of my favorite Irish drams – the Redbreast 12 year-old, bottled at its full cask strength.  I reviewed the standard Redbreast 12 year last year, and was left wanting more.  Having tried a few different batches of the Redbreast at its cask strength, I am quite satisfied.  This inculcation of the Redbreast’s single pot still whiskey is aged exclusively in ex-Sherry casks, and is non-chill filtered.  This particular review is of Batch B1/12, which comes in at 117.2 proof (58.6% abv).

On the nose, this whiskey is dense with barley, banana peels, dark chocolate, wood sealant, lemon-lime soda, fresh red apples, and some old driftwood.  The nose is a unique, funky blend of spirit and cask, only hinting at its lifetime in ex-Sherry wood.  The palate reveals the sherried character a little more.  It is an oily and full-bodied palate, with notes of red apples, Amontillado and Fino sherry, dark chocolate, white chocolate, raisins, and dried blackberries.  The finish is long and warming, with a wonderful combination of sherried character, mocha, vanilla, strawberry, and a soft, oaky woodiness.

Overall, this is a deep and powerful dram that opens up beautifully with a drop or two of water.  Not all Irish whiskey is soft and smooth; this one opens up with both barrels, and does not give up easy.  It is also delicious and intriguing from start to finish.  If sherry-aged Scotch is your thing, give the Redbreast Cask Strength a try, and let it ride.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  My grade: A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  With this only being about $15 more than the standard Redbreast, I’ll go for this one every day of the week.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey Review

ESQ010114_030Well, its March, and everybody’s favorite Irish holiday is right around the corner.  In honor of good ol’ St. Patrick, I’ll be doing a bit with some Irish whiskey in the next two weeks.  Today’s review is of Knappogue Castle 12 year-old single malt Irish whiskey; it is also a review with my good friend, William, from A Dram Good Time.  Single malt Irish whiskeys are not as common as Irish blended whiskeys like Jameson, Kilbeggan, and Powers, but you can find them if you know where to look.  Like single malt Scotches, single malt Irish whiskeys are distilled entirely from malted barley at one distillery and aged a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels.  The biggest difference from Scotch is that single malt Irish whiskey (like all Irish whiskey) is triple distilled, whereas most Scotch whiskies are double distilled.

The Knappogue Castle brand name is currently owned by Castle Brands, Inc., but Knappogue Castle has had a complicated past.  The actual whiskey in the bottles has been distilled at almost every distillery in Scotland, making it a hard whiskey to keep track of.  To the best of my knowledge, the Knappogue Castle single malts are currently being distilled at Cooley Distillery on the East coast of Ireland.  The 12 year-old is the standard expression in the Knappogue Castle lineup, but there are also some delicious older expressions of Knappogue available in the states.  The 12 year-old is aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

This whiskey looks beautiful in the glass, with its beautiful pale gold, white wine color (there is no caramel coloring added to Knappogue Castle).  On the nose, it is light and sweet, with pears, lemons, daisies, lilacs, and some barley.  The palate is medium-bodied and pleasant, with malted barley, pears, oak shavings, and fresh white grapes.  The finish is medium in length with some dry oak, marshmallows, barley, floral notes, and citrus peels.

Overall, Knappogue Castle 12 year is an easy-drinking quality Irish single malt.  It is crisp and clean all the way through, with flavors reminiscent of white wine, making it a great whisky for those looking to try an Irish whiskey beyond Jameson without going for too much complexity.  My grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.

Here are William’s tasting notes, but you can check out his full review over at A Dram Good Time:

Color:  Light Gold / Straw – somewhat reminds me of peach white tea.

Nose:  Light, pleasant and full of fresh fruits right out of the gate – apples, pear, pineapple – twigs, honey, touch of vanilla and wood spice, minerals, dry grass, and now more on red apple peels.

Palate:  At 40 percent and triple distilled, this whiskey is pleasant and smooth from start to finish. Much like its aromas, the palate is also full of fresh fruits – again, apple and pear but also a little peach and hints of tangy citrus now – hay-like grassy notes, barley, honey, light oak and a touch of peppery spice.

Finish:  Moderate in length with a bit of that peppery oak, honey and apple peel.

This is a very fresh, soft and creamy Irish single malt. It’s not all that deep and the sweet and gentle qualities definitely make it an entry-level whiskey, but it’s nicely balanced and one I’d gladly toast with this St. Paddy’s day.

Rating:  B

Dram Good Time B

 

Barrel Strength Bourbon Tasting: Four Roses, Booker’s, Elijah Craig, and E.H. Taylor

Last week, some of my best new and old whiskey-loving friends got together for another meeting up of the Boston Brown Water Society.  Last month, we kicked off the society in style with some full-bodied Scotches, and last week we crossed the pond for some full-bodied, barrel strength bourbons.  We tasted the four bourbons mentioned above, and we did the tasting blind so as not to allow our preconceived notions about these bourbons to influence our palates.  I have done my best to summarize everyone’s general thoughts (and some of my own) on these four wonderful bourbons from four of Kentucky’s most notable distilleries.  Bourbon Barrels Aging

The first bourbon we tried was a private barrel selection of Four Roses, bottled for Kappy’s liquor store in Medford, Massachusetts.  It was made from Four Roses’ OBSK recipe, aged 11 years and 4 months, and bottled at 109.6 proof (54.8% abv).  This bourbon got mixed reviews around the table, ranging from really good to a very solid bourbon.  This particular inculcation of Four Roses was especially spicy, with rye zip, chili peppers, and some black pepper.  Those spicy, zesty notes and some alcoholic heat continue all through the bourbon, but are tempered out nicely by  the addition of water, which calms the whiskey down and opens up more sweet flavors, such as caramel and butterscotch.  Overall, this one is quite tasty, indicative of the consistent quality of Four Roses.  My grade: B+.  Price: $45-50/750ml.

The second bourbon we tried was Booker’s.  This bottle of Booker’s was 7 years and 6 months old, from Batch 2013-6, and bottled at 125.4 proof (62.7% abv).  This bourbon was widely put at the bottom of everybody’s list for the evening.  I have been a bit proponent of Booker’s in the past, but this batch was not the best bottle to ever hit the shelves.  There was a tannic bitterness that stayed throughout the nose, palate, and finish that most of us found off-putting.  There were some sweet brown sugar and caramel notes that stayed throughout the bourbon, but this one did not bring the complexity or depth of the other bourbons of the evening.  Water did not help this one much at all, either.  My grade: B-/C+.  Price: $45-50/750ml.

The third bourbon we tried was the third release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof from Heaven Hill distillery.  It is 12 years old and registers at a whopping 133.2 proof (66.6% abv).  For many folks around the table, this bourbon was the highlight of the evening.  The nose on this bourbon is unbelievably delicious, with all sorts of deep caramel, mocha, brown sugar, vanilla, and oak notes.  The palate is plenty drinkable at barrel strength, but if you find it a little hot, water calms it down beautifully yielding notes of barrel char, spiced nuts, vanilla, and freshly roasted coffee beans.  The finish is long, warming, and sweet.  This bourbon was my personal favorite of the night, and I loved it equally as much at barrel strength and cut with a little water, demonstrating the complexity and depth of this sexy bourbon.  My grade: A.  Price: $45-50/750ml.

The final bourbon of the evening was Buffalo Trace’s Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof.  This was the only whiskey we sampled without an age statement, but judging by its fiery 135.4 proof point (67.7% abv), I suspect this bourbon probably has at least an average of 10 years or so under its belt.  This bourbon also garnered some votes for the best bourbon of the evening, and for good reason.  The nose on this one is woody in a really good way, described as “funky in a good way” by several people at the table.  There are some citrus notes in this nose as well, along with some spicier notes and some traditional bourbon sweetness.  The palate is pretty hot, but water brings the heat into balance with the sweetness and yields a great bourbon.  It remains quite woody and citrusy, but there are also notes of orchard fruits and a spice cabinet.  The finish is long, warming, and mildly woody.  Overall, this is a rough and ready bourbon in the best possible sense.  It might not fit in at fancy dinner parties, but that’s alright with me.  My grade: A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.

At the end of the day, these are all good bourbons, and none of them are too overpriced.  The E.H. Taylor is the most expensive of the four, but some in our society believed this was the best bourbon of the lineup as well.  The Elijah Craig packs the best value of the bunch, but it is very hard to find.  The Booker’s is the most readily available of these four bourbons, but its variance from batch to batch does not always make this a great buy.  The Four Roses was a limited edition, privately-selected bottling, but judging by what I have tried from Four Roses, if you see a bottle of Four Roses Private Selection Single Barrel available, I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed with the quality of the bourbon.  The real moral of the story is that price, popularity, and exclusivity do not determine a bourbon’s quality.  The only way to determine the quality of a bottle of bourbon is to crack the bottle, let it ride, and let the bourbon speak for itself.

Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year Bourbon Review

It’s been a while since I did a good old-fashioned bourbon review here at Bargain Bourbon, so today we’re getting into Jim Beam’s new Signature Craft series.  The Jim Beam Signature Craft series is a new line for the famous Beam distillery which will include limited releases (the first release was a bourbon finished with Spanish brandy) and the new Jim Beam 12 year bourbon.  To the best of my knowledge, 12 years is the oldest standard release out of the Beam distillery to date.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).  The release of the Signature Craft series is not the only thing Beam has been up to in the past year or so.  Beam, Inc. was recently bought by Suntory, Ltd., which was followed shortly by the announcement of their new spokesperson, Mila Kunis.

In the glass, Jim Beam 12 is a beautiful amber, russet color.  On the nose, this bourbon smells of a sawmill (in a good way), with cherry cola, oak, some florals, and some vanilla.  The palate develops the oak even further along with vanilla, cherry cordial, and some tannic bitterness.  The finish is medium in length, with those same cherry notes, oak spice, and some lingering bitterness.  This bourbon is plenty drinkable at its bottle strength, and water tends to bring the flavors apart too much.

Overall, Jim Beam 12 year-old is decent bourbon, but in my opinion, it has spent a little too much time in the wood.  Jim Beam makes very good bourbon, and their new 12 year is no exception.  However, there is a reason Booker Noe liked his bourbon between six and eight years old – that is where Jim Beam’s bourbon is at its best.  Booker Noe knew what he was talking about.  This is a bit like a child that lives at home too long.  It is still very good, but it is just too woody to be my favorite bourbon coming out of Jim Beam.  My grade: B-.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  At the price point, there are bourbons I prefer to this one, but its elegance and age give this bourbon a unique spin on the standard Beam line.

Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky Review

Balcones Texas Single MaltI am capping off my little mini-series on American craft whiskeys with one of my very favorite whiskies, Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky.  This whisky is made from malted barley that is mashed, fermented, distilled, and aged at the Balcones Distillery in Waco, TX.  Like most Balcones whiskies, there is no age statement on the bottle, but that is not a case of Balcones trying to hide bad spirit.  This is truly a case of Balcones bottling their products when they are ready.  Like most Balcones products, their single malt is bottled in small batches (this is batch #SM12-9) and without the use of coloring or chill-filtration.  Like the Balcones Brimstone, Texas Single Malt is bottled at 106 proof (53% abv).

In the glass, Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky is a rich, deep mahogany color.  The nose is a classic single malt, but wholly unique at the same time.  It reminds me of rich, freshly baked banana bread, with the balance of toasted sweet breads, bananas, walnuts, tangerines, chocolate pound cake, and a light whiff of cinnamon spice.  The nose on the whisky is unbelievably delicious.  The palate is medium to full-bodied, fruity and buttery, with notes of pears, strawberries, cinnamon sugar, and toasted bread.  The finish is warming and relatively long, with some spiced oak, cinnamon, and vanilla custard.

Overall, this whisky is absolutely brilliant.  It is unlike anything else on the American whiskey scene today, truly in a class of its own.  It is sweet, fruity, malty, spicy, and lightly wooded.  Everything you would want from a single malt whisky is present, and yet this whisky sneaks into the realm beyond words.  It also opens up beautifully in the bottle and with a few drops of water.  It is slowly becoming more readily available, but still not the easiest whisky to find.  Snag a bottle if you see one.  My grade: A-/A.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is a little pricey for its youth, but the juice in the bottle is worth every penny.  Balcones is definitely doing some great stuff with whisky, and letting it ride!

Balcones Brimstone Whisky Review

Balcones BrimstoneIn continuing my thoughts on some American craft whiskeys, I am reviewing Balcones Brimstone, a whisky (Balcones does not use the “e”) made with 100% blue corn.  Balcones is a distillery out of Waco, Texas that has quickly swept the American whiskey scene with its innovative, brilliant line of whiskeys and whiskey liqueurs.  The subject of today’s review is Brimstone, a whisky made from a mash of 100% blue corn and smoked with Texas Scrub oak.  Chip Tate (master distiller at Balcones) has kept his secrets regarding this whisky under wraps very well, but Brimstone is smoked differently than most peated whiskies coming out to Scotland in that Balcones smokes the whisky, itself, not the grain.  I suspect that this whisky is not very old, but I do not know that for sure, as there is no age statement on the bottle.  The whisky is bottled in small batches (this review is of #BRM13-3) and bottled at 106 proof (53% abv).

The aroma’s of this whisky come leaping immediately out of the glass, with dry-rubbed barbecue spices, burning wood, toasted corn chips, rock salt, and caramelized onions.  The palate is medium to full-bodied, and it follows up on what the nose started.  Sweet corn, mesquite barbecue, and a big bonfire smoke note make up what is certainly a unique palate.  The finish is long, longer than most whiskies I have encountered.  Seriously, try two glasses of this whisky at about 8 pm, and see if your breakfast doesn’t taste like Brimstone whisky.  The finish reminds me of a combination of barbecue smoke, wood smoke, and pipe smoke, the flavor that might linger after eating some barbecue potato chips and smoking my pipe.

I do not care for this whisky too much with water added, as it really thins the whisky out too much, rendering the whisky disjointed.  However, I do really like blending this whisky with bourbon.  Pouring a full 2 ounce measure of bourbon, and adding just a splash of Brimstone makes a delicious homemade blend that brings a great combination of sweet and smoky to bear.  I love doing homemade blending, and I am always excited when a combination works as well as this one does.  Brimstone is also a fun whisky to have in the cabinet because of how it bends your palate, and changes the flavor of whatever whisky you may taste after it.

Overall, Balcones Brimstone is certainly a unique and innovative whisky.  It is hardly a whisky that one can drink often, but there are some nights (and some foods) that go really well with Balcones Brimstone.  It also makes a fantastic whisky to cook with, for all its spicy, flavorful qualities.  This is well-made whisky, a trend indicative of the quality of Balcones’ products.  Look forward to a few more reviews of their whiskeys here at Bargain Bourbon.  My grade: B-.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  Even though the price is a bit steep for such a young whisky, you should give Brimstone a whirl; it is a memorable whisky experience.  Let it ride!

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