Posts tagged ‘Single Barrel’

Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey Review

Out here on the East Coast, we just got slammed with the first big snowstorm of the year, dropping about 30 inches or so on my residence.  Thanks a lot, Jonas.  So, a tipple or two, perhaps.  Today, I am revisiting a distillery that I often disrespected in my early days of whiskey-ing, but I have come to respect it more.  There is something to be said for a distillery that comes out with a consistent product time after time and that whiskey maintains its status as a worldwide best-seller year after year.  However, nothing swings a label over to my good side like some high proof juice, which is exactly what we’ve got here.Snow

Jack Daniel’s has always released the single barrel series, and some of them are good.  But, in 2015, Jack Daniel’s launched a nationwide release of a barrel strength single barrel product.  My beloved uncle and aunt bestowed a bottle for the Christmas holiday, and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.  The bottle I am reviewing was bottled on November 5, 2015 from barrel 15-6410 from rickhouse L-25.  There is no age statement on the bottle.  It clocks in at a sexy 131 proof (65.5% abv).

The color is a rich, amber hue with some orange tints.  The nose is smells of off-piste bourbon, with vanilla, burnt caramel, brown sugar, mahogany, and oak.  At its full strength, it is a little bit of a boozy nose, too. The palate is rich and creamy, with oak, vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and some alcohol heat.  The finish is warming, full, and medium in length, with a balance between brown sugar and vanilla, and some old leather notes.  Water brings out a little more Jack Daniel’s character, with some tannic woodiness present on the palate, rich caramel, bananas, maple syrup, but maintaining the warming oak throughout.  However, water also brings out some cinnamon and pipe tobacco notes that I was not getting before.

Some people had informed me that if I did not like Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, I would not like their barrel proof juice.  However, it was precisely the opposite.  I love what Jack is doing here.  I found this more complex and deeper than standard Jack Daniel’s.  I did not start to see true Daniel’s character until I added a little water, but the notes I usually find in Jack Daniel’s like bitter wood and bananas were tempered and rounded into the whole profile of the whiskey.  I have enjoyed this bottle immensely, almost as much as I enjoy the people who gifted me the bottle.  My grade:  B+.  Price:  $60-70/750ml.  This is right up there with barrel strength bourbons in its price range and gives Jack’s fans their favorite juice as God intended it.

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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.

Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Well, let’s throw down the first bourbon review of 2015.  Henry McKenna is a single barrel bourbon out of Heaven Hill in Bardstown, KY.  This is not one of Heaven Hill’s biggest name brands, but the general quality of Heaven Hill certainly made me think this was going to be a good bourbon.  If the other bourbons I have had in this same age range (Evan Williams Single Barrel series) had any bearing, this was going to be a good bourbon.  The bottle I am reviewing here is from Barrel 1488, and it is bottled-in-bond at 100 proof (50% abv).

The color is a rich, dark russet, just beautiful in the glass.  The color is almost indescribable in its striking beauty, like the rich hues of a summer sunset (pictured).   The nose is dry and woody, like tree bark that has been dipped in a bit of vanilla extract.  The palate is also a very dry presentation, with dry tree bark, caramel, cinnamon, and some nutmeg.  The finish leaves the palate very dry, with a lot of wood and some cinnamon spice. DSCN0470

Overall, this is a much different profile from what I was expecting, given my prior exposure to the Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbons.  This is one of the woodiest bourbons that I have encountered, and most certainly one of the driest in a good way, like that weird uncle everybody has.  This is a rich bourbon that is especially good for this time of year, with its viscous wood notes.  Like many single barrel bourbons, I suspect that this label varies a bit, but if this barrel is anything to go on, its worth giving it a shot.  My grade:  B.  Price:  $30-35/750ml.  For the price point and the age, this is a very solid bourbon.

Happy New Year! and Koval Single Barrel Rye Review

2015 is upon us, and I hope you have enjoyed Bargain Bourbon’s past year as much as I have.  As always, a massive “Thank You” to all my readers of Bargain Bourbon and the people in my life who put with me through all my bloggings, musings, and rantings. So, on that note, what better way to open up 2015 than with a little whiskey review?

http://www.koval-distillery.com/newsite/whiskey/rye

Koval Rye Official Site (Photo Source)

At WhiskyLive Boston 2014, I was introduced to Koval Distillery, out of Chicago.  I reviewed their bourbon, and found it to be a refreshing take on bourbon that pushed the envelope without sacrificing the integrity of the product.  Needless to say, I was pretty fired up to dabble in some more Koval spirit.  So, I’m kicking off 2015 with a review of Koval’s rye whiskey.  This is a single barrel, 100% rye whiskey with no age statement (but I suspect we are talking about a 2-3 year-old whiskey).  The particular barrel I am reviewing is Barrel #331, and it is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

At first whiff, this is dry stuff, damn near non-liquid with notes of sawdust, dill weed, turpentine, nutmeg, and ginger.  It is a sharp, very dry nose, and while it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, I like it.  The palate is light in its body, with some sawdust, ginger, dry rye, and cinnamon candy.  The finish is spicy, sharp, and bone dry.  As this whiskey worked down in the bottle, it really opened up in its body, cutting through its dry character to become softer and more approachable on the palate.

Overall, this is definitely a great cocktail rye (especially if paired with an especially sweet vermouth in a Manhattan), but it also works well on its own.  This is a very versatile whiskey that will only improve with a few more years in the barrel helping it along.  If you like great rye cocktails, sipping a fine whiskey on the rocks, trying a great new rye, or supporting a very good craft distillery, Koval Single Barrel Rye is worth the money.  My grade: B-.  Price:  $40-45/750ml.  The only complaint that I can really find with this whiskey is the disparity between the age and the price, but this is certainly a quality rye that cuts through the gimmicks of the craft whiskey world with a solid 100% rye.

Happy New Year from Bargain Bourbon!

Koval Single Barrel Bourbon Review and Happy Halloween!

Well, Happy Halloween everybody. If I am honest, Halloween was never my favorite holiday, and I have never gotten too into it, but I know it is very popular in certain circles. So, if its your cup of tea, have fun and be safe. If you are in my certain circle, you are probably looking forward to enjoying some good bourbon on a cool New England evening. So, let’s get to that part.

Happy Halloween

Koval Distillery is a craft distillery in Northern Chicago that has been distilling actively since 2008. The proudly make organic spirits from scratch, take all their whiskey from the heart of the run, and bottle all their whiskeys from single barrels. Koval is one of the most refreshing distilleries in America nowadays. Unlike sourcing whiskey from Buffalo Trace or Heaven Hill and selling it to the consumer for twice the price, Koval is contracting their own grain, and making unique whiskeys their own way. Koval does a great job balancing time-honored distilling traditions and pushing the envelope. They are not releasing gimmicks; they are releasing good whiskey with their own special touch. I have only sampled their bourbon and their rye thus far, and I was very impressed with both, and I have only grown more impressed I have learned more about the company. Let’s delve into Koval’s single barrel bourbon.

Like all bourbons, Koval is made from at least 51% corn in the mashbill and aged in a new, charred American oak barrel. However, unlike other bourbons, the remaining grain components are not rye, barley, or wheat. In an unprecedented move, Koval has used millet to fill in the grain bill of their bourbon, which adds a dimension to the bourbon that is wholly unique to Koval. The bourbon in the bottle is between 2 and 4 years old, un-chill filtered, and is bottled at 94 proof (47% abv).  For the record, I am reviewing barrel #946.

Koval’s nose takes a while to work with, as it is bringing flavors to bear that are rarely seen in bourbons. On the nose, Koval presents ginger bread, vanilla wafers, molasses, basil, black tea, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It is herbal and spicy (but in a different way than rye-forward bourbons), with a backbone of sweetness. The palate is surprisingly light in body for being un-chill filtered and 94 proof. There are notes of sweet corn, gingerbread, molasses, zucchini bread, and black tea. If I tasted this blind, I would probably not guess this was a bourbon. The finish is short and sweet, with some lingering spices, gingerbread, bread pudding, and banana bread.

Overall, this is most certainly a different product altogether. However, once you move past the differences, it becomes clear that this is a very good whiskey, well-made and very flavorful. In the past, I have certainly ranted on “craft distilleries” for sourcing whiskey and peddling it or making gimmicky, flavored whiskeys to dull the palates of America, but Koval is doing none of that. I cannot wait to get my hands on some more Koval whiskeys and pass along my thoughts to cyberspace. My grade: B. Price: $40-45/750ml. The price may seem a little excessive for the age of the bourbon, but that is partly the price you pay for craft products, and in this case, the bourbon in the bottle holds fairly well in that price range, especially when compared to other craft whiskeys.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage Bourbon Review

Evan Williams 2003 VintageWith the holidays around the corner, a lot of folks will be enjoying their rare and limited edition whiskeys that only come out on special occasions.  Here at Bargain Bourbon, I believe in the special occasions as much as anybody else, but we ought not lose track of the bourbons that get us through the year, year in and year out.  One such bourbon for me is the Evan Williams Single Barrel Series.  The subject of today’s review is the 2003 Vintage, barrel #603, aged 10 years, 3 months, and 18 days.  As always, Evan Williams Single Barrel is bottled at 86.6 proof (43.3% abv).

The nose on this bourbon is classic Evan Williams.  It is sweet with blackberries, raisins, cherries, but it is balanced out with spicier notes of black tea, cloves, and wood shavings.  The palate is dry with maraschino cherries, caramel, and timber.  The palate is fresh and lively, but with a pleasant oakiness to it.  The finish is medium in its length, with warming flavors of caramel hard candies, cherries, and some bitter tannins.

Overall, Heaven Hill has produced another classic bourbon with this barrel and this vintage.  This is a soft, sweet bourbon that goes very well with the spiciness of gingerbread cakes and cookies around the holidays (seriously, try it).  Even though Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbons are not my favorite bourbon profile, they are very good bourbons that consistently hit their mark.  My grade: B.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  In places where this bourbon is available for $20, it is the almost always the best buy on the shelf.

Elmer T. Lee and His Legacy

Unfortunately, today the bourbon industry lost Elmer Tandy Lee, master distiller emeritus at Buffalo Trace distillery.  As you might guess, I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lee, but his reputation has left an important legacy on the bourbon industry and the bourbon market. Elmer T Lee

In the early 1980’s, Mr. Lee made a massive move in bourbon when he decided to start bottling single barrels of bourbon based on a specific taste profile.  He named this bourbon Blanton’s, after Colonel Albert Blanton, Lee’s predecessor.  From what I have been able to find in researching the topic, a few distilleries had experimented with limited edition bottlings, but Blanton’s was the first regularly released single barrel bourbon.  In bottling bourbon from a single barrel, none of the flavor of the barrel was lost in batching the bourbon.  The popularity of single barrel bourbons quickly caught on for consumers that wanted a premium bourbon product with all the excitement and variance that comes with single barrel products.  The sheer number of single barrel bourbons on the shelves of liquor stores nowadays is a tribute to Mr. Lee’s genius (not to mention the fact that one of those single barrel bourbons is named Elmer T. Lee).

Most importantly, Mr. Lee came to bourbon later in his life (in his thirties) when he procured a job as a maintenance engineer at the George T. Stagg (later Buffalo Trace) distillery in 1949.  From that point on, he rose in the company until he was declared the Plant Manager and Master Distiller, a position he held until 1985.  Elmer T. Lee’s life is one that triumphed dedication and learning.  He worked hard, and learned everything about bourbon the old-fashioned way.  He was at the distillery everyday to learn and make the most of every conversation.  Harlen Wheatley (current Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace) said he still sought out Mr. Lee’s advice even though Mr. Lee was well into his 90’s.

Elmer T. Lee was somebody who learned about bourbon through intelligence and osmosis.  The best way to learn is to do with the right attitude, and that is Elmer T. Lee’s legacy.  He was always a proponent of drinking responsibly.  He understood that bourbon did not slumber in the barrel to be dumped in a cocktail and downed for its effects.  So, in that tradition, take some time today to have a meaningful conversation while enjoying a small glass of your favorite bourbon (and don’t forget the toast to Elmer Tandy Lee).