Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon Review

Kind of makes you want to drink a little bourbon, doesn't it?  getintravel.com

Kind of makes you want to drink a little bourbon, doesn’t it? getintravel.com

Every time of year is a great time of year to drink bourbon, and every part of the world is a great place to drink bourbon, but there is something special about a glass of bourbon in the cool autumnal months in New England. The leaves are painting the landscape vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows, and the breeze is crisp enough to warrant the type of warmth only bourbon can provide. Now that I’ve got the romance out of the way, on to the bourbon…

Today, I am reviewing a relatively new bourbon product from Woodford Reserve. About two years ago, Woodford Reserve released their Double Oaked bourbon (90.4 proof/45.2% abv), which starts its life as standard Woodford Reserve before it is transferred into heavily toasted (only lightly charred) barrels for a finishing period of approximately 9 months. The result is a quality bourbon, indicative of Woodford’s craft, but a bourbon that brings a slightly different flavor profile to the finished product.

On the nose, this bourbon is pleasantly sweet with marzipan, toffee, cooked apples, and a bit of cinnamon sugar. The palate is sweet, creamy and medium-bodied with a lot of butterscotch, caramel, toffee, marzipan, candied almonds, and apple pie. The finish is medium in length, with butterscotch and caramel hanging around for a good while. Overall, this is a very sweet inculcation of Woodford Reserve, but it is hardly cloying.

Overall, to my palate, the Double Oaked is a sweeter representation of Woodford Reserve. The rye content of the bourbon seems to get swallowed up in the flavor waves of toffee and butterscotch, which is hardly a bad thing. This bourbon is not quite my favorite style, as I tend to like sharper bourbon, but this is a soft, sexy, approachable bourbon that is soundly worthy of the Woodford name. My grade: B. Price: $45-50/750ml. This is a great bourbon for after a large meal because it is soft, sweet, and it just might be sexy enough to prompt a little lovin’.

Staying Power: A Few Bourbon Staples

One of the unique aspects of whiskey brands is that they do change over time. When you combine that change with the change in our palates, you can get some pretty intense discrepancies regarding the quality of different bourbons, especially over time. Personally, there are several different bourbons that I have found to vary a lot from batch to batch, barrel to barrel (Booker’s, Elmer T. Lee, Rock Hill Farms), but there are also some bourbons that I have found to stay rock solid over all my years drinking the blessed spirit. Recently, I picked up two bourbons I had not had in a while to see if I liked them as much as I used to…

Ever since Heaven Hill came out with their Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases, bourbon lovers have been clamoring to get their greasy paws on some of this juice. The first release got rave reviews, as did most of their successive releases. I recently finished a bottle of their fourth release (134.8 proof, 67.4% abv), and it was absolutely fantastic stuff. It was every bit as dark, ominous, and beautiful as its predecessors. This is a complex, sweet, woody, and intense bourbon. Judging from what I have tasted to this point, I see no reason that this bourbon is going to slow down. All three bottles of this stuff that I have grabbed have been fantastic. If you see a bottle of this stuff chilling on a shelf at your local liquor store, grab it and thank me later.

The second bottle I picked up was a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel (Barrel 87-4I), and it also did not disappoint. With some single barrel bourbons, there is definitely a lot of variance from barrel to barrel, with some barrels being great, and others being just average. Four Roses is not in that category. Every different barrel of their beloved OBSV juice is aged to damn near perfection. This particular barrel was a little bit spicier than some previous inculcations that I have had, but Four Roses’ bourbons always tend towards some spiciness anyway. Like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, when you see a bottle of this juice on the shelf, you are never missing the mark if you decide to walk out with a bottle or two.

Really, this is less of a bourbon review, but just a reiteration to all of my readers that there are still a lot of good bourbons out there. So many of the blogs are heralding the end of the great bourbon era with all the new craft distillers sourcing young bourbon, and the no age statement bourbons being released. To be sure, there is plenty of gimmicky bourbon out there, and even some of my old standards have let me down a bit recently (Booker’s, cough-cough), but that does not mean that all hope is lost friends. In a bourbon universe that occasionally looks bleak, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and Four Roses Single Barrel are still standing tall as testaments to making really good bourbon with time-tested precision and patience.

Old Crow Bourbon Review

The Old Crow label is one of the most recognizable bourbon brands in the world, with constant music and movie references.  Interestingly enough, despite the bird on the logo, the brand itself is named after James Crow, a Scotsman who distilled in Kentucky in the early 19th century.  Nowadays, the brand is owned by the Beam Suntory giant, and is distilled at the James Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.  The bottle indicates that this juice is at least 3 years old, and it is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

On the nose, this is a pretty straight forward bourbon with a lot of corn, candy corn, caramel, and vanilla.  This is young and spry stuff, but not at all bad. The palate is a simple, sweet presentation of bourbon full of caramel and vanilla flavors.  Wood is hardly integrated, but that is to be expected.  The finish is short and sweet with caramel and a wee bit of sawdust.

On the whole, this is hardly an offensive bourbon.  It is noticeably young, which makes it a bit simple and straightforward, but I do not really find anything in this bourbon to be especially off-putting.  My biggest complaint is simply that the bourbon is too quick, which makes it a pleasant but uninteresting bourbon experience.  Jim Beam has a quality product here that just needs a little extra loving from the barrel.  My grade: C-.  Price: $10-15/750ml.  What is most appealing about this bourbon is the price point, and how good it really is for $12 a bottle.

Breaking & Entering Bourbon Review

Today’s review is of Breaking & Entering bourbon, a fitting whiskey to review following Independence Day weekend since bourbon is a domestic product, and the United States is responsible for way too much “breaking and entering” over the course of its time.  No matter what side of the fence you fall to on this one in terms of whether or not the United States should have broken in and entered, we have done it an awful lot.  In the bourbon world, Breaking & Entering is a small-batch bourbon out of St. George’s Spirits in California.  None of this bourbon is distilled on site, hence the name of the whiskey.  The guys at St. George’s went to Kentucky and came up about 400 or so barrels of bourbon, which they have then blended into a series of small-batch releases.  There is no age statement on this bourbon, which leads me to guess that the ages of the bourbon barrels brought back probably varied.  The specific batch that I am reviewing is No. 050624, and it is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

The nose smells of cornbread, caramel, banana bread, and rye.  The palate brings some bitter oak, toffee, caramel, banana bread, and herbal components.  The finish is medium, slightly tannic, and a wee bit sweet with caramel.  With a bit of time in the bottle, this got a little sweeter, but overall it held well with time.

In theory, taking the best of Kentucky’s different flavor profiles and turning into a bourbon-blending playground is a great idea.  In practice, it is a good result, too.  St. George’s has succeeded in making a straight-forward bourbon that gives you an overview of what Kentucky bourbon is made of.  Obviously, the specific potential of individual distilleries is lost in the final product, and I do not think Breaking & Entering bourbon is an instance where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  That said, this is a good bourbon, and it is very reasonably priced for a craft distillery; the only problem is that none of this bourbon is actually small-batch craft bourbon, just bourbon blended into small batch at a craft distillery.  My grade: B-/C+.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This is definitely worth a shot, and since it varies from batch to batch, your next experience with Breaking & Entering could be a memorable one.

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Review

 

Well, needless to say, I was pretty excited when Wild Turkey 101 Rye hit the shelves again after a few years gone from the wide world of rye, almost as excited as I was to see the U.S. soccer team pick up a 2-1 victory over Ghana.  This has long been regarded as one of the finest value ryes that you could no longer find in liquor stores.  Now, Wild Turkey has rereleased this whiskey, and I am pretty excited to get to review this new release.  There is no age statement on this, but I suspect that we are dealing with about a 6 year-old rye here; we do know that this is 101 proof (50.5% abv).

 

The nose on Wild Turkey 101 rye is quite vegetal, but full of spicy rye characteristics.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme, licorice, and wood shavings all present themselves.  The palate is earthy and a bit vegetal, with some wood, soil, rye bread, and licorice.  The finish is long and sweeter than the palate, with honey and vanilla wrapping themselves nicely behind herbal, earthy spices.

 

Overall, this is a fine rye whiskey.  It presents a lot of classic rye characteristics with a lot of value.  I would also imagine that this would do wonderfully in a rye-based cocktail if that is your cup of tea/whiskey.  Either way, this one is definitely worth a try, although I cannot say how it stacks up to what this whiskey was five years ago.  My grade: B-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is most certainly a fine value for a rye whiskey, evident of a great trend for Wild Turkey.

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Baker’s Bourbon Review

Baker's BourbonSince today is Memorial Day, I thought it important to review an American spirit, specifically a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  Perhaps no distillery in the United States is synonymous with bourbon in the way that Jim Beam is, which is why I have chosen today to review Baker’s, the final member of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection left to review on the blog.  I have already reviewed Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s, and Knob Creek, and they are all solid bourbons.  Baker’s is a 7 year-old Beam bourbon, and it is bottled at 107 proof (53.5% abv).

Upon pouring a measure of Baker’s, the dark amber in the glass is truly beautiful, as is the smell wafting out of the glass. On the nose, Baker’s is a pure bourbon nose of caramel, cinnamon, corn, leather, and oak.  The palate has a medium to full body, with caramel, black peppercorns, oak, corn, deep vanilla, and some bitter tannins.  The finish is slightly bitter, but sweet enough to round it out with corn, caramel, and some lingering vanilla sweetness.

Overall, Baker’s is straightforward bourbon with a lot to offer if you love bourbon.  If you are not a bourbon fan, then this bourbon is likely to change your mind. It is deep, robust, and pleasantly sweet.  The added proof gives it nice depth, and the depth is indicative that this is quality bourbon regardless of how “small batch” it actually is.  This bourbon won’t blow your mind; it will merely remind you that tradition and quality make for good bourbon.  My grade: B/B-.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  If there is a beef to have with this bourbon, it is that there is nothing that especially stands out about it, and it usually runs for close to $40 a bottle.

Auchentoshan Valinch Scotch Review

ValinchToday, I am wandering a bit of the beaten path for this whisky review to the Lowlands of Scotland and the Auchentoshan Distillery. This review is of Auchentoshan Valinch, a limited release cask-strength single malt aged predominantly in first-fill ex-bourbon casks. There is no age statement on the Valinch, but I suspect it is between 8-12 years old. In case you are wondering where the name “Valinch” comes from, it is the name of pipette used at the distillery to draw whisky from the casks for sampling prior to the barrel being dumped. Auchentoshan is a unique distillery in that it is the only distillery in Scotland to triple-distill all of their spirit, helping it to achieve its classic Lowland profile. This particular bottle I am reviewing is from Auchentoshan’s 2012 release of Valinch, and it weighs in at 114.4 proof (57.2% proof).

On the nose, this is soft, elegant stuff. There are notes of sautéed pears, oranges, and some lilacs. It is a pleasant nose, but not such a complex one. Water intensifies the nose, but the general character remains straightforward as before. The palate is quite nice, full-bodied, and creamy. There are notes of crème brulee, tangerines, big vanilla, honeysuckle, oak, and some light florals. The finish is medium-long, with some drying oak, fresh wood, pears, and oranges.

Overall, this is a good, young bottle of whisky. It is rather drinkable despite its proof, but still brings a nice complexity to the table. If you enjoy Irish whiskeys such as Bushmill’s single malt or Redbreast’s lineup, I suspect you will enjoy Auchentoshan Valinch very much. Here in Boston, this is a beautiful dram to have around the house as spring seeks to muscle in on the long winter. My grade: B/B+. Price: $50-60/750ml. This whisky won’t break the bank, and it caters to many different palates.

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