Posts tagged ‘Noah’s Mill’

Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Review

Today, I am reviewing Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon.  The name is quite a mouthful, and the bottle is quite a sight.  I ranked it as one of my favorite bottle designs, and you can see why.  The bourbon in the bottle is a single barrel bourbon bottled at 94 proof.  It is distributed by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, who also distribute Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, and Kentucky Vintage, just to name a few.

On the nose, Willett is a real treat.  It is light, elegant, and sweet.  There are notes of freshly cut flowers, caramel popcorn, vanilla, herbs, herbal tea, and some light wood spices.  The palate is light-bodied, giving way to flavors of caramel apples, maple syrup, toasted coconut, some light herbal spices, and some floral notes.  The finish is not especially long, but it does taste very nice.  The finish reminds me a lot of caramel popcorn, but there is are also some light herbal and wood spices that come through.

Overall, Willett is a very unique bourbon, a bit reminiscent of some of the Four Roses products I’ve reviewed. My only complaint is that it does not have a lot of body, even when bottled at 94 proof.  I think that it could be bottled at an even higher proof, with a lot of benefits.  As it stands, Willett is not a great value buy as it is relatively pricey, but it is a fantastic whiskey.  It makes a great gift (especially because of the bottle design), and it should be savored slowly and responsibly.  It is easy to drink a bit too much of this one… My grade: B-.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  This is a very enjoyable whiskey to keep around, but there are better (in my opinion) bourbons on the market for less money.

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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?

Kentucky Vintage Bourbon Review

Kentucky Vintage is the third product that I have reviewed by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (the other two being Noah’s Mill and Rowan’s Creek).  Kentucky Vintage is a small batch bourbon bottled at 90 proof.  There is no age statement on this whiskey, but I suspect that it is between 6-10 years old, and probably a batching of whiskeys of different ages.  This is an interesting whiskey to review on this site because I have seen Kentucky Vintage at many different prices depending on where you get it.  I have seen it sold for as little as $22 a bottle, but I have also seen it sold for as much $45.  Therefore, take where you live and where you are buying it if you are interested in picking up a bottle of Kentucky Vintage.

On the nose, Kentucky Vintage is a quite shy.  It takes a few drops of water to open it up to big whiffs of caramel and charred oak.  On the palate, Kentucky Vintage has a good, full body to it, and it is very sweet.  The biggest flavors are brown sugar and caramel, with some oak coming through towards the back of the palate.  The finish gives off strong oak, some tannin, and a slight whiff of caramel after a while.  When drank neat, the finish is long and warming, but with a few drops of water to open the nose up, the finish is drastically shortened.

Overall, Kentucky Vintage falls short of my expectations of KBD’s small batch bourbons.  Noah’s Mill and Rowan’s Creek both leave Kentucky Vintage in the dust in my opinion.  Kentucky Vintage is not very complex, and the oak is not integrated very well.  However, I do think the sweet character of Kentucky Vintage would make a great mixer for certain whiskey-based mixed drinks, so if you find a bottle for cheap, it might be worth the buy.  My grade: C-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a good mixing bourbon, but not much of a sipper.

Bourbon Myths

I started Bourbon for Beginners with the intention of disproving one of the most outrageous myths about bourbon – the more expensive a whiskey is, the better a whiskey is.  As I hope to have proven in the several months I’ve had the blog up and running, that is simply not true.  In addition, I have hoped to distill the rumor that tasting and enjoying whiskey is an objective endeavor.  Tasting whiskey is firmly a subjective pursuit, varying greatly from person to person.

However, there are still more myths about bourbon (and whiskey at large) to be debunked.

1.  The older a whiskey is, the better a whiskey is.  This is simply not true, as I hoped to show in my comparison review of Booker’s and Noah’s Mill.  Booker’s is only aged between 6 and 8 years, while Noah’s Mill is aged at least 15 years.  However, while they are both fantastic whiskeys, I definitely prefer Booker’s.  All aging a whiskey does is give the whiskey a different character than when it was young.  What is true is that older whiskeys tend to be more expensive because they are more rare and harder to find.  The best way to find out whether a younger or an older whiskey is better is to go out and drink the whiskey for yourself, which brings me to the second bourbon myth I’d like to debunk…

2.  The only proper way to drink bourbon is straight up and neat.  I used to believe very strongly in this myth, but it is also not true.  I recently had the opportunity to try Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey, one of the esteemed offerings from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection.  As a barrel-strength whiskey, it was a little tight in its flavors.  However, after adding a few drops of water, Thomas Handy opened up to me and exploded across my taste buds with brilliant spices and vanillas in perfect balance.  I suppose you could say I had a conversion experience.  That being said, I still prefer drinking most whiskeys neat, but a splash of water can sometimes do wonders for opening up a whiskey.  Of course, if you bought the drink, you can drink it however you would like.  I enjoy the fullness of whiskey, so I don’t usually like it on the rocks because chilling the whiskey usually dulls the palate in my opinion.  But as I have said before, there is no right way to drink whiskey; it is a subjective journey.

3.  There are correct tasting notes in a whiskey.  This is only somewhat true.  When I taste a whiskey, the flavors usually conjure up other thoughts in my mind.  Maybe a scent reminds me of Christmas morning, or a finish reminds me of a warm bonfire.  These sensual memories contribute to the tasting notes that I bring out of whiskey.  The reality is that most whiskey simply have a basic profile.  There may be a general sweetness in the finish, but how a person exactly describes that sweetness is entirely subjective.  In other words, if I review a whiskey and said it has a raspberry note in the nose, and you think it smells like strawberries, neither one of us is wrong.  That, my friends, is the beauty of whiskey.

Hopefully, this has been helpful.  Now, when one of your parents’ uppity friends tells you they have The Glenlivet 15-year French Oak Reserve in their liquor cabinet, you can confidently tell that person that The Glenlivet 12-year is every bit as good as the 15-year (at least in my opinion), and they wasted their money just to look fancy.  In the meantime, drink some young, value bourbon and let it ride!

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!

Rowan’s Creek Review

Rowan’s Creek is the first bourbon I’ve reviewed that comes from the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) line of bourbons.  Rowan’s Creek comes out of a small batch collection that includes one of my choice bourbons, Noah’s Mill.  Rowan’s Creek is the younger brother in the small batch collection, being aged 12 years to Noah’s Mill’s 15.  However, that also means that Rowan’s Creek is cheaper, usually in the same price range as a more popular bourbon like Knob Creek.  The two whiskeys have similar profiles, but as you will see, I think Rowan’s Creek is the one I’d rather drink.

Like Knob Creek, Rowan’s Creek is bottled around 100 proof, which gives it a powerful flavor profile and mouth feel.  On the nose, Rowan’s Creek comes right out and says that it is a big, oaky bourbon.  However, it is a sweet oak, with some of the burnt sugars from the barrel coming through as the bourbon sits in the glass.  There are rich notes of brown sugar, maple fudge, and nutmeg.  On the palate, Rowan’s Creek is medium-bodied, with a strong oak character.  However, it is backed by some citrus notes (pears, oranges), vanilla, and roasted nuts which add a lot to the whiskey.  The finish is strong and of medium length, leaving oak and fresh pepper all over the palate.  However, like the nose, the oak has a sweet character to it, with some well-timed vanilla.

Overall, Rowan’s Creek is a big, bold bourbon whiskey.  One of the most interesting things about Rowan’s Creek is that it opens up very nicely in the bottle.  Don’t go through the bottle too quickly, or you might miss this bourbon’s beautiful evolution from a rich, oak monster to a complex, sweet, well-oaked bourbon.  It is not going to be everybody’s favorite bourbon, much the same way that people are polarized over Knob Creek.  However, between the two, Rowan’s Creek has a lot more complexity. Rowan’s Creek can be a tough bourbon to find, but if you love rich, oaky bourbons, then it is a good bourbon for a good value.  My grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  This is very good stuff, but it isn’t quite a top shelf bourbon (but it’s close).