Posts tagged ‘Jim Beam’

Some Thoughts on New, Aged Releases: Bulleit 10 and Jim Beam 12

Well, as anybody who follows the bourbon world knows, the blogs have been blowing up the last week with Maker’s Mark’s news of its decrease in proof.  Thankfully, for the sake of all our sanity, this heathenistic decision has now been repealed.  So, naturally, we need something else to talk about in bourbon land.  As I am always on the hunt for the latest and greatest value whiskeys, I thought I would offer some preliminary thoughts on a few bourbons on the horizon.

Diageo has recently bombarded the shelves (even in Boston) with Bulleit 10.  I have reviewed the standard Bulleit Frontier Bourbon and the Bulleit 95 Rye, with the former passing and the latter performing very well.  According to my roommate Chris and Jason Pyle, both these whiskeys are very good in cocktails.  I have every reason to suspect that the Bulleit 10 will continue that tradition.  I am excited to see how this whiskey fairs as a sipping bourbon, too.  Four Roses is the supplier of the Bulleit label bourbons, and I have every reason to suspect that Four Roses will continue making good bourbon.  I have always maintained that Bulleit’s Frontier bourbon is too drying a spirit for a straight pour, much the way I feel about Old Grand-Dad.  I am anxious to see if the 10 year brings a mellower side to Bulleit.  Of course, it is also priced around $40/750 ml here in Boston which might make it a good value buy if it comes through.

The other whiskey that is set to hit the shelves this summer is Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 year.  According to Chuck Cowdery’s post on the subject, Jim Beam will be releasing a craft series that will include the 12 year old and some other limited releases.  One of the traditional knocks against Jim Beam has always been that they have stayed away from limited releases, whereas Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, and Woodford Reserve have sought to explore new frontiers of American whiskey with all sorts of limited edition bottlings.  In addition to being new territory in terms of limited edition bourbons, Jim Beam 12 year will also be the oldest bourbon to come out of Jim Beam as a standard product (there have been some limited edition older bottlings).  To that point, I am excited to see what this bourbon is made up of since Jim Beam has always been one of my favorite bottlers of great value whiskey.  Devil’s Cut, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, and Booker’s are all very good value whiskeys to have around your cabinet.  Supposedly, this new 12 year will be about $50/750 ml.  That is about the price of a bottle of Booker’s, so this will have some living up to do in my book, but I am excited nonetheless.

If any readers have had a chance to try these bourbons, I’ll love to hear what you think so far.  In the meantime, let it ride!

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(What’s In) Phil’s Cabinet

Happy New Year!  To kick of the New Year, I am starting a new section on the blog called (What’s In) Phil’s Cabinet.  People ask me all the time what I am drinking at present, what they might expect if they came by for dinner and a dram.  So, on the first of every month, I will update what is in my whisk(e)y cabinet, both opened and unopened bottles.  This is also an opportunity for you to put in requests as to what you would like to see me review in the future, whether it is Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Rye, Welsh, Indian, Japanese, or other type of whisk(e)y.  So, leave me a comment, or drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is what is in the cabinet as of January 1, 2013:

Bourbon:

Angel’s Envy (unopened) – This is a bourbon that some folks have asked about, and I should have a review of it up by the end of spring.  It is a bourbon finished in port wine casks, and I am very excited to try it.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2002 Vintage – This is a wonderful everyday bourbon, and I looking forward to grabbing a bottle of the 2003 Vintage that just hit shelves a few weeks ago.

Maker’s 46 – This is very good bourbon, with a very nice, deep sweetness that unfolds beautifully.  If it were a few bucks cheaper, it would contend for one of my favorite value bourbons.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (unopened) – Another whiskey that has been requested a lot, this is a barrel-strength offering from Wild Turkey.  I am excited to try it, review it, and here what y’all have to say about it.

William Larue Weller (fall 2012 bottling) (unopened) – This is a barrel strength, limited-release wheated bourbon from Buffalo Trace that my father found as a Christmas present.  Not necessarily a value bourbon, but it is one of the most anticipated bourbon releases every year.

Rye:

Jim Beam Yellow Label – A solid every day pour that makes a very nice cocktail, too.

Sazerac 18 yr. (fall 2012 bottling) – This is my favorite whiskey currently in my cabinet.  I love this one.  Not necessarily an ideal price point, but you get your money’s worth for $70.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (fall 2012 bottling) (unopened) – This is the younger, brash brother to the Sazerac 18.  Jim Murray rated this bottling as his Whisky of the Year in the 2013 Whisky Bible (William Larue Weller was his runner-up).

Willett Single Barrel Estate Reserve 4 yr. (unopened) – This is an LDI rye, bottled at cask strength.  My affinity for Bulliet 95 is what made me seek this one out.

Scotch:

Ardbeg 10 yr. – This is one of my favorite Islay Scotches from one of my favorite Scotch distilleries.  As far as Scotches go, it is a pretty good value, and I’ll probably put up a review here in the next few weeks.

The Black Grouse – A nice, peaty blended whisky that works well for an everyday Scotch.

Highland Park 12 yr. – Another beautiful Single Malt Scotch from Scottish islands.  I should have my review of this one up soon.

Those are the whiskeys in my cabinet at present.  What’s in your cabinet?  What whiskeys do you want to see reviewed on the blog?  What whiskeys are you hoping to try in 2013?  Once again, Happy New Year and let it ride!

Knob Creek Rye Whiskey Review

Knob Creek RyeThis is a review of Jim Beam’s newest rye whiskey release, under the Knob Creek label.  Like the original Knob Creek bourbon, this one is bottled at 100 proof.  There is no age statement, but I suspect it is not a very old product.  My guess is that it is a little older than Jim Beam Yellow Label, but not by much.  As followers of the blog have probably noted, the Knob Creek label has never been one of my favorites, although I am a fan of the Single Barrel Reserve.  Of course, I am always up for having my mind changed, which is why I got my hands on a few samples of Knob Creek Rye.  Here are my thoughts…

On the nose, this whiskey smells earthy to me.  There is some mint there, which reminds me I’m drinking a rye.  There are also some herbal notes to it, like basil leaves or musty oregano.  The palate has a nice medium body with a nice entry of cinnamon, ginger, and some vanilla.  It is definitely a hot, intense whiskey.  You know you are drinking it at 100 proof when it is drank straight.  Water lessens the heat, but it does not open the flavors or the bouquet up at all.  The finish is long, minty, and a little spicy.

Overall, I am not impressed with this whiskey.  It is a solid rye, with a lot of rye heat.  However, there really is not much depth or complexity to this one.  I would like to see what would happen if Jim Beam released an older rye, maybe something like ten years.  I think some of the sweetness of the barrel would add complexity to the whiskey to save it from the one dimension of rye in this whiskey.  My grade: C.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  This would be a nice whiskey to have around for mixed drinks if it was half the price (in my humble opinion).

Jim Beam Yellow Label Rye Review

Today, I am reviewing Jim Beam Yellow Label, the flagship rye whiskey from the James B. Beam Distillery.  I have reviewed a few rye whiskeys on the blog so far, but this is the cheapest one so far.  Jim Beam Yellow Label is bottled at 80 proof and aged 4 years, just like Jim Beam’s entry level bourbon.  However, I do believe that rye whiskeys work better at younger ages than bourbons, and I believe Jim Beam’s Rye is an example of that.

On the nose, Jim Beam Rye is a quintessential rye whiskey.  There are notes of rye spices, menthol, cinnamon, pine straw, black licorice, and dried mint leaves.  It is a very pleasant nose, although it is a little subdued.  It doesn’t quite jump out of the glass like some other rye whiskeys.  The palate has a nice balance of sweet and spicy notes, the combination between vanilla and cinnamon.  There are also notes of evergreen trees and sour candy.  The finish is moderate to medium long.  There is some rye spice lingering, combined with mint leaves and a little vanilla.

Overall, I am a fan of this whiskey.  It is flavorful up front, and it is a great introduction to rye whiskey.  It makes a flavorful mixer if rye-based drinks are your style.  The nose is very nice, and the palate is a simple, solid presentation of what a rye whiskey can be.  My grade: C.  Price: $15-20/750ml.  What is best about this whiskey is the price.  For $16, you can have a great introduction to rye whiskey and a great mixing whiskey for your liquor cabinet.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded Review

I have been searching for this bourbon for a while now, and I finally got a hold of a bottle of Old Grand-Dad Bonded.  Most people are familiar with Old Grand-Dad, mostly because of its shout-out in George Thorogood’s “I Drink Alone.”  The standard Old Grand-Dad offering is bottled at 86 proof, but it is offered at several different proof points.  Today, I am reviewing the 100 proof Bottled-in-Bond edition of Old Grand-Dad.

Today, the Old Grand-Dad Distillery is owned by Jim Beam, which makes the other namesake bourbon of the old granddad of bourbon, Basil Hayden.  For those who have asked me about it, Basil Hayden is the man pictured on the label of Old Grand-Dad.  Like Basil Hayden’s, Old Grand-Dad is manufactured with Basil Hayden’s signature high-rye mash bill.

On the nose, Old Grand-Dad Bonded is spicy and citrusy.  There are notes of wood and rye spices, backed up with a big corn sweetness and dried orange peels and lemon peels.  In my opinion, the rest of the bourbon is a bit too controlled by the prickly rye spices.  The palate has notes of the charred barrel, chili powder, black pepper, and some corniness.  The finish is hot and spicy, with the same notes of char, chili powder, and black pepper.  However, the finish does become more complex with notes of cocoa dust and roasted corn that keep it going for a long time.

Overall, Old Grand-Dad is a solid bourbon, especially if you like a robust, spicy rye-character.  I am not a big fan of the rye bourbons, so it is not my favorite.  I definitely prefer Wild Turkey 101 to Old Grand-Dad if all other factors were equal.  However, at $20 a bottle, it is pretty hard to find a better bourbon than Old Grand-Dad Bonded.  My grade: C.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a nice mixing whiskey, especially when blended with other bourbons.

Bourbon Rankings (Taste)

I have had several people ask me to provide a ranking of the bourbons I have reviewed based solely on the bourbon.  Well, here are my bourbon grades.  Check out my grading scale here.

1.  Booker’s (A)

2. Four Roses Single Barrel (A-)

3. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year (B+)

4. Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select (B+)

5. Noah’s Mill (B+)

6. Rowan’s Creek (B+)

7. Maker’s 46 (B+)

8. Rock Hill Farms (B+/B)

9. Wild Turkey 101 (B+/B)

10. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002 (B)

11. Woodford Reserve (B)

12. Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel (B)

13. Blanton’s Original (B)

14. Wild Turkey Rare Breed (B)

15. Four Roses Small Batch (B)

16. Knob Creek 9 Year Single Barrel Reserve (B/B-)

17. Elmer T. Lee (B/B-)

18. Basil Hayden’s (B-)

19. Buffalo Trace (B-)

20. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (B-)

21. Elijah Craig 12 Year (B-)

22. W.L. Weller 12 Year (B-)

23. Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Family Reserve (B-)

24. Jefferson’s (B-)

25. Four Roses Yellow Label (C+)

26. Wild Turkey 81 (C+)

27. Old Forester (C/C+)

28. Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch (C)

29. Old Grand-Dad Bonded (C)

30. Old Weller Antique (C)

31. Jim Beam Black Label (C)

32. Evan Williams Black Label (C)

33. Bulliet Frontier (C)

34. Berkshire Bourbon (C)

35.  Fighting Cock 6 Year (C-)

36. Kentucky Vintage (C-)

37. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (C-)

38. Maker’s Mark (C-)

39. Wild Turkey 80 (C-)

40. Jim Beam White Label (C-)

41. Jesse James (D+)

Those are my bourbon rankings ranked solely on my tastes.  That’s the fun of bourbon, you might rank these completely different.  Which ones would you change?

Comparison Review: Booker’s vs. Noah’s Mill


 

I recently did a review of Blanton’s Original Single Barrel for a friend of mine, in which I concluded that Blanton’s was a good bourbon, but it wasn’t quite worth $50 a bottle.  A few people have asked me a valid question, “Is there any bourbon worth $50 a bottle?”  Of course, the answer is up to you.  However, to aid your journey, I’ve decided to do a comparison review of two bourbons that I believe are both worth $50 a bottle, Booker’s and Noah’s Mill.

Both Booker’s and Noah’s Mill are usually priced at about $50 a bottle or so.  They are also both high proof bourbons, with Noah’s Mill weighing in at 114.3 proof and Booker’s weighing in between 123 and 129 proof, depending on the batching.  They are also both small batch bourbons, meaning they are created from combining different barrels together before they are put in the bottle.

Booker’s is a bourbon from Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection (Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s), named after Booker Noe, James Beam’s grandson.  As I mentioned earlier, this bourbon is uncut, and bottled at the same proof it is in the barrel.  Booker’s is comprised of whiskeys aged between six and eight years, specifically from barrels placed in the center of the James Beam Distillery Warehouse.  Although it is not the most popular bourbon from the Small Batch Collection, it is definitely the best in my opinion.  Booker’s is done in very small batches, and it does vary from batch to batch.  The particular bottle I am reviewing is batch C05-A-12, aged 7 years, 5 months, bottled at 128.5 proof (64.25% abv).

On the nose, Booker’s reminds me of freshly baked cinnamon rolls.  The nose is sweet, complex, and powerful.  There are notes of brown sugar, apple pie, sweet oak, vanilla, toasted peanut butter, and light smoke.  On the palate, Booker’s is full-bodied, yet surprisingly drinkable.  Green apples, caramel, vanilla, charred oak, and some smoked fruits all blend together to form a brilliant mouth feel.  The finish is long and very warming, but it is also full of flavor, achieving great balance between the oak and the sweet sugars of caramel and vanilla.  In my opinion, Booker’s is one of the best whiskeys on the American market today.  It is full, complex, and powerful in both proof and flavor profile.  My grade: A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is brilliant bourbon, plain and simple.

Right next to Booker’s on the top shelf is Noah’s Mill, a 114.3 proof, small batch bourbon produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.  Noah’s Mill is made from a variety of whiskeys at different ages from different mash bills and from different distilleries.  Then, the whiskeys are blended and bottled to perfection by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers to create Noah’s Mill.

On the nose, Noah’s Mill can be a little shy, but give it a minute.  After sitting for a few, it will open up with a rich nose, displaying notes of toffee, caramel, and some roasted vanilla.  The palate is sweet and drying, with the sweetness of vanillas and caramels being bolstered by dried raisins and cranberries.  The finish is long and warming, just like Booker’s.  There is a good amount of rye spice balanced with sweet, warming toffee and caramel flavors.  In my opinion, Noah’s Mill is certainly deserving of its place on the top shelf.  My grade: B+.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a wonderful, big, robust bourbon, it just doesn’t quite have the life that Booker’s has.

The one complaint that I have heard about both of these bourbons is that they vary significantly from batch to batch.  Unfortunately, that is just one of the perils of small batch bourbon.  Nevertheless, I have always found both of these bourbons to be fantastic whiskeys through and through.  In the end, I definitely give the edge to Booker’s, although Noah’s Mill is still one of my favorite whiskeys.  If I had $50 to spend on one bottle of bourbon, I would spend it on Booker’s with no hesitation.  But, the best way to find out is to drink these whiskeys and see which one works best for you.  Let it ride!