Posts tagged ‘Buffalo Trace’

Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Today, I am reviewing a bourbon that is quickly becoming a staple of the Buffalo Trace stable – Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel.  This is one of the most readily available bourbons in the E.H. Taylor lineup, presented in the tall, slender, iconic E. H. Taylor bottle.  This bourbon is bottled-in-bond, so it is bottled at 100 proof (50% abv).  There is no age statement on this bourbon, but I have heard that most barrels are between 7 and 9 years old.

The nose on this is a bit tight, with vanilla, caramel, and a mellow, oaked component.  The palate has some good sweet flavors, like candy corn, toffee, butterscotch, and caramel, all backed up with a solid woody backbone.  The finish is short and sweet, with warming oak, caramel, and raisins.  It drinks well at 100 proof, with little to no alcoholic burn, and a good depth of character.

Overall, this is a solid, balanced bourbon.  This is clearly well-made spirit, with good aging.  Considering it was actually Colonel E.H. Taylor (the real person, not the bourbon) that came up with the idea for climate controlled warehouses, it is only fitting to properly age the man’s namesake in your best warehouses.  Okay, that was just a sentence thinly veiled as an excuse for a fun bourbon fact.  Bottom line, E.H. Taylor Single Barrel is a good, balanced bourbon; there is not much that screams at you in either a positive or negative direction.  It is the kind of bourbon that you sip, and say to yourself, “that is exactly what I was expecting out of a high quality bourbon, but there is nothing melting my face here.”  My grade: B.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  My biggest dispute with this bourbon is really the price point; there are better bourbons for $20 less.

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Trader Joe’s Bourbon Review

I am finally getting around to one of my most asked about bourbons.  As soon as I mention to someone that I write a bourbon blog, it seems inevitable that I will be asked what I think of Trader Joe’s bourbon.  For those of you not living in one of the nine states where Trader Joe’s exists, it is a chain of eclectic grocery stores that specialize in off-the-beaten-path foods that is now dabbling in the wonderful world of whisk(e)y.  The draw of Trader Joe’s bourbon is obvious (it is $15 per bottle), but the question is whether or not we are drinking a good value bourbon or distilled shoe polish.  As Jeff Foxworthy once said, “You would go for the cheapest Lasik surgery in town or the cheapest vasectomy in town, so maybe cheap isn’t always good.”  That said, Trader Joe’s is sourced from Buffalo Trace/Sazerac, as it is distilled at the 1792 Barton Distillery (where 1792 Ridgemont Reserve is distilled, for example).  Trader Joe’s is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv) and sold exclusively in Trader Joe’s outlets.

For me, the nose is the best part of Trader Joe’s bourbon.  There are notes of clove, caramel, oak, burnt pine, and mint leaves.  The palate leaves quite a bit to be desired, though.  It tastes like bourbon, for sure, but it is mostly soft caramel and corn, with very little complexity or depth of flavor.  As the whiskey moves towards the finish, there is an unpleasant lemony note that I find off-putting.  In some whiskeys, some tart citrus works really well, but rarely in bourbon.  The finish is short to medium in its length, and has traditional bourbon notes of caramel and sweet corn, with a slight twinge of oak.

Overall, I was disappointed in Trader Joe’s bourbon.  It is certainly what you might expect from a young bourbon, but there is very little going on with it, and that makes it a hard whiskey to get behind.  Of course, if you need a bourbon for cocktail night, this one has the price tag to fit that bill, especially if craft cocktails aren’t your thing.  My grade: D+.  Price: $15-20/750ml.  If the price point looks like it might be your thing (and you love wearing Hawaiian shirts), don’t hesitate to give this one a try and let it ride!

Don’t Always Trust the Experts (Some Thoughts on the Antique Collection)

So, before I start getting angry emails, I realize that some folks might think I am an “expert,” so I am saying you should not trust me.  Well, I am not a whiskey expert, only an avid drinker and blogger.  Also, you should not trust me just because I have a blog, similar to the way you should not trust Jim Murray just because he writes a Whisky Bible.  Take all us whiskey yappers with a grain of salt, and trust your own palate.

In Jim Murray’s 2013 edition of his Whisky Bible, he said he thought the 2012 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye was the best whiskey in the world for the previous year.  His runner-up vote went to William Larue Weller, a barrel-strength wheated bourbon also from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This is the first year that I have actually gotten a bottle of Jim Murray’s Whisky of the Year, so I was pretty excited.  I got to try three different whiskeys from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, which was also exciting for me.  For me, out of the 2012 editions of the Sazerac 18, the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac, and the William Larue Weller, my favorite was the Saz 18.  Both the Weller and the Handy were both very good, but I thought the Sazerac 18 was the deepest and most complete whiskey.  It leapt out of the glass, and different layers to its spices and sweetness.  In addition, there are Scotches that I can think of that I thought could have won out over the Sazerac 18.  I have not tried all the whiskeys that Jim Murray has, but I do think there were finer whiskeys released in 2012 than the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac.

My point in writing this article is not to call out Jim Murray for being wrong about the best whiskey in the world.  Jim Murray has his own palate, just as I have mine, and you have yours.  Therefore, if Mr. Murray thought the best whiskey in 2012 was the Thomas. H. Handy, then he is well right in his own mind with his own senses.  I disagree with him on this point, just I some of y’all have disagreed with me about my favorite whiskeys.  Be careful not to take blogs and whiskey reviews as the all-knowing authority on whiskey.  My point is that we shouldn’t all go out and buy a bottle of something just because you hear one person (even an “expert”) tell you it’s the best whiskey in the world (if ten experts say so, it might be worth the investment).  Taste the whiskey for yourself, and see what you like.  There are no right or wrong answers in tasting whiskey, just how much we love the various whiskeys we have the privilege to encounter.  Few things permit the indulgence of subjectivity like whiskey, so appease your own palate and let it ride!

Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Rock Hill FarmsAfter a brief departure into the world of Islay Scotch with my reviews, I am returning to bourbon this evening with a review of one of the coolest looking bottles on the market today – Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon.  Rock Hill Farms is a bourbon bottled from a single bottle from Buffalo Trace.  There is very little information about this bourbon on the bottle, no age statement or any information on the barrel.  It is bottled at 100 proof, but that is all that Buffalo Trace tells us about this one (I’ve heard that it is made from the same mash bill as Blanton’s, but just aged elsewhere in Buffalo Trace’s warehouses).

On the nose, Rock Hill Farms is wonderfully enticing.   The traditional notes of sweet corn and caramel are present, but there are some interesting notes, too.  Sweet cocoa dust, wood shavings, and some white chocolate all emerge.  It is definitely a “spicy” bourbon.  The palate is full bodied, with some nutty notes (almonds, candied pecans), vanilla, corn, oak, and bitter dark chocolate.  The finish is medium-long, with some spices staying around nicely.  The cocoa dust is there with some oak and candied pecans.

Overall, this is a very tasty bourbon, one that is both traditional and unique.  It is a pure pleasure to drink, even though it feels disjointed at some places.  It is a little rough around the edges, but also refined.  It is a hard bourbon to put my finger on and describe, which probably means that it is doing something right.  My grade: B+/B.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a great bourbon to have in the cabinet because it tastes great, and it looks pretty awesome in any collection.  However, there are bourbons that I prefer at $50 a bottle.

Giving the Gift of Bourbon

Well, a lot of folks are starting to do their holiday shopping, and there are a lot of people who love to give and receive the gift of bourbon.  Whiskey shopping around the holidays can offer some great deals on holiday gift packages.  A lot of distilleries will issue box sets where you might get a 750 ml bottle with some glassware or some 50 ml samples of other products.  Even if you are just looking to treat yourself, holiday box sets are always good fun.

Woodford Reserve's holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Woodford Reserve’s holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Before I get into my recommendations for the bourbon lovers on your list, I need to issue two disclaimers.  First, if you are a bourbon lover like myself, that does not give you the right to supply others with bourbon in hopes they will give you half the bottle because they don’t like bourbon all that much.  Secondly, taste is personal, and your favorite whiskey might not be tolerable to somebody else. That said, do some research on the person you are giving the gift to and the bottles you are thinking of buying to give the best gift possible.  Of course, that is where I want to offer some helpful suggestions that won’t break the bank.

For the bourbon newcomer on your list:  This is the person on your list who has never had bourbon (or any other whiskey) before, but they have put bourbon on their holiday wish list.  Don’t get them anything over 90 proof, and don’t get them anything will do dense a flavor profile.  My main recommendation is Four Roses Yellow Label.  It is light, and it gives a good introduction to whiskey without it being too complex.  It is also a great value buy.  If you are looking for something a little fancier, try Basil Hayden’s.  It is also a light, well-balanced whiskey.  Both of these presents will leave the recipient craving another bottle of bourbon.

For the bourbon novice on your list:  This is the person on your list that has been getting into some starter bourbons of late, but he/she looking is looking to enjoy some craft bourbon.  My recommendation (if you can find it) is Elmer T. Lee.  It is a single barrel bourbon that is indicative of what bourbon should be.  It won’t break the bank, but it is a monstrous step up from Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark.  However, Elmer T. Lee is hard to find.  If you can’t lay your hands on that one, Buffalo Trace is a great alternative.

For the bourbon admirer on your list:  This is the person who has been casually drinking bourbon for a few years, and it is one of their favorite drinks.  This person is one of the easiest people on your list because they will probably like your gift.  That said, here are a couple of the quintessential craft bourbons that make great gifts.  Eagle Rare 10 yr. and Woodford Reserve are two readily available bourbons that always make great gifts.  If you can find it, Four Roses Single Barrel is a great offering if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars.

For the bourbon connoisseur on your list:  This is the person who loves bourbon, and gives a lot of thought and attention to their bourbon.  Among bourbon connoisseurs, there are a few whiskeys that you can rarely go wrong with.  If you find anything from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, Stitzel-Weller/Buffalo Trace’s Van Winkle Collection, Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection, or Four Roses Limited Edition Collection (and you can swing the bill), pick it up.  It is a rare occasion that I read a bad word about any of these bourbons, but they are all pretty hard to find.  That said, barrel strength bourbons are always a great gift for the bourbon connoisseur on your list.  Noah’s Mill, Booker’s, and Willett Single Barrel (barrel strength) are all great gifts to open and great bourbons to drink.

In case this guy is on your list...

In case this guy is on your list…

For the vain bourbon drinker on your list:  This is for that bourbon drinker that likes to sit in a smoking jacket with a $100 cigar while they enjoy their bourbon.  Hardly a value bourbon drinker, but for somebody like this, appearance is everything.  So, I would recommend a bourbon with a cool bottle and a long, uppity-sounding name.  My first recommendation is Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Reserve.  The bottle looks like you paid $100 dollars for it, but you didn’t even spend half that.  What is in the bottle is pretty good, too.  My other recommendation is the fancy horse-stopper of Blanton’s.  It is a solid, all-around bourbon that has a very distinguished bottle.

For the rye whiskey drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the rye drinker on your list that has mentioned wanting to get into bourbon.  I would definitely recommend a rye-heavy bourbon.  If you are thinking of a light, drinkable, full-flavored rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Russell’s Reserve 10 yr.  If you are thinking monstrous, full-bodied, intense rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Wild Turkey 101.  Both these bourbons are great choices for rye lovers.

For the Scotch whisky drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the Scotch (I’m thinking Speyside) drinker on your list who normally finds bourbon too heavy and sweet for their palate.  The bourbon to give to them is Four Roses Small Batch.  It is light, floral, and fruity, but it still possesses a lot of bourbon qualities.  Basil Hayden’s is usually a good gift here, too. Wild Turkey American Honey

For the liqueur drinker on your list:  The best bourbon-based liqueur on the market is Wild Turkey American Honey.  Hell, even I drink it every once in a while on a hot summer’s day.

Those are my thoughts on buying bourbon for the holidays.  If the person on your list falls outside any of these categories, leave a comment or shoot me an email at thedagupeir@gmail.com.  Let it Ride!

Holiday Whiskey Comparison Review: Part 1 – 18 yr. American Whiskey

Well, it is getting to that time of year when us Americans over-celebrate holidays, which often involves drinking.  There are many folks who think that holiday drinking ought to entail drinking rare or expensive whiskey.  Of course, rare and expensive whiskeys are fun and often delicious, but holiday drinking is about enjoying your favorite dram.  So, enjoy a whiskey you might like this holiday, and avoid paying too much.

With that in mind, though, here are a few tips on buying hard to find and expensive whiskeys.  My primary piece of advice is probably the most important, do your research.  There are whiskey blogs all over the internet, and reviews of whiskeys are not hard to find.  When I am looking into buying an expensive bottle, it is usually because I have a specific flavor profile that I am looking for.  To that end, I read whiskey blogs and discuss my possible purchase with friends who have had previous bottlings or expressions of the whiskey.  If I am going to buy a whiskey for $80, then I want to have a good idea of what I am going to get.

My second piece of advice is that just because a whiskey is old, hard to find, and expensive, does not mean that it is a great whiskey.  I have said this over and over again because it is true.  Every whiskey has an ideal age that depends on the type of cask used, the temperature of the storage, the nature of the new make, your palate, etc.  The trick is to find the age you like a whiskey at the best, and balance that out with how much you are willing to spend on a bottle of whiskey.

Without any further gab, I’ll get to my comparison review.  Today, I am reviewing two 18 year-old American whiskeys, Sazerac 18 yr. and Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select.  Sazerac 18 yr. is a straight rye whiskey that is bottled by Buffalo Trace in limited quantities every fall as part of the Antique Collection.  Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery (famously the makers of the coveted Van Winkle line).  Both these whiskeys are expensive, hard to find, and aged at least 18 years.

I am reviewing the Fall 2012 bottling of the Sazerac 18 yr., as it is the first and only bottling that I have tried.  It is a straight rye whiskey that is also bottled and sold in a 6 yr. edition.  Rye whiskeys have enough flavor to be very good at a young age, but I had always heard that the Sazerac line was at its best in the 18 year old.  It is bottled at 90 proof.

On the nose, the whiskey has a backbone of cinnamon and honey, but it is rounded out beautifully by oak, brown sugar, toffee, ginger, roses, and vanilla.  This whiskey is alive in the glass.  The scents come flooding deep into the nostrils; it is a wonderful, warming aroma.  On the palate, the whiskey opens up with fresh fruits and spiced sweetness.  There are notes of plums, cinnamon, oak, peaches, apples, and rye.  The finish is medium long, with notes of vanilla, rye, cinnamon, and oak.  My only minor complaint is that the finish can be a little tannin-ish sometimes, but that is a minor complaint.

Overall, this is a brilliant rye whiskey.  It balances the rye spices and the oak sweetness perfectly.  It is a joy to drink, and it is a hard whiskey to beat.  My grade: A.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  The price tag is a little steep, but it is worth a try if you can find it.  This whiskey is almost an A+.

Jefferson’s 18 year-old Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery.  As I have documented before, I am not a big fan of wheated bourbons, but they tend to be whiskeys that age very well.  Jefferson’s certainly proves that.  It is a small-batch bourbon bottled at 94 proof (I am reviewing Batch 14).

On the nose, Jefferson’s Presidential Select has many typical bourbon notes.  The oak is clearly present, but it is dense and flavorful, not too overpowering.  There are notes of toffee, corn sweetness, and melted caramel.  The palate is light-medium bodied, with notes of caramel, vanilla frosting, and silky oak.  It is an extremely drinkable bourbon (be careful).  The finish is of medium length, but it tastes delicious, with the rich oak melding with the toffee, caramel, and vanilla.

Overall, this whiskey drinks well under its proof point, and it is much better than other wheated bourbons I have reviewed on the site.  However, it still falls short of greatness in my opinion.  It is too light-bodied for my tastes, but that does not mean that it isn’t the rare bourbon for you.  My grade: B+.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  This is a damn good bourbon, but it is hard to justify the money for me.  It is a little too mellow for my taste.

My point in all this is to say that not all 18 year old whiskeys are the same.  Read up on some old whiskeys you might like to try, and let it ride!  Stay tuned for Part 2 where I compare an 18 year-old Islay Scotch and an 18 year-old Speyside.

Old Weller Antique Review

Today, I am reviewing Old Weller Antique.  It is a 107 proof wheated bourbon from the same distillery and family as W.L. Weller (I have reviewed the 12 yr. old).  It is another whiskey from the Buffalo Trace giant, and it is sold at very reasonable price.  It is usually in the low $20’s, making it a good bottle to keep around the house.  How does it fare in a tasting?  (Special thanks to my good friend, Henry, for enabling my tasting of this whiskey)

The nose of Old Weller Antique is tight, revealing very little depth.  The alcohol and the wheated recipe mask a lot of the scents that are traditionally associated with bourbon.  What does come through are notes of butterscotch, toffee, and wet oak.  This bourbon picks up on the palate.  Old Weller Antique has a viscous mouth feel that yields notes of sweet oak, caramel, vanilla, candied almonds, and honey roasted peanuts.  It is very sweet and rich, but it has very few layers.  The finish is long and warming, but it is simple.  It is sweet and dark, as if somebody was pouring melted caramel and toffee fudge down my throat.

On the whole, this is a classic wheated bourbon.  It is sweet, and not overly complex.  It is exactly what a wheated bourbon should be, with a more powerful palate than Maker’s Mark or Rebel Reserve, which are in a similar price range.  Old Weller Antique is to wheated bourbons what Old Grand-Dad Bonded is to rye bourbons.  It is exactly what it should be, and not much more.  My grade: C+/B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is good whiskey, not much of a mixer, though.  If you like wheated bourbons, its worth a try.