Posts tagged ‘Willett’

Getting Weird with Homemade Blends: Some Thoughts

If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to spend some time with me, you are probably aware that one of my favorite sayings is, “If you ain’t gettin’ weird, weird is gettin’ you.”  And, it is upon that basis that a few years ago, I began to take to experimentation with blending my own whiskeys at home.  If you are one of those folks who believes that each whiskey you buy should be drank neat, then you’ve got to expand your horizons, my friend.  And, as opposed to leaping straight into making Laphroaig cocktails, why not do some dabbling with homemade blends (especially around the holidays when you’ve got all sorts of in-laws blowing up your spot)?

The biggest reason I started working with homemade blends is because of whiskeys that I was not the biggest fan of on their own merits, but saw potential in their flavors.  The first ever blend I created at home (and I always recommend starting with a glass and then working up to a full batch) originated from my having a bottle of Willett rye that was a little hot for my tastes, with some heavy herbal notes that were not my favorite.  To be sure, this Willett was not bad whiskey, merely not my favorite.  So, to bring in some sweetness, but not too much, I created a glass of whisky with 1.5 ounces each of Willett rye and Wild Turkey Rare Breed.  The result was a fantastic dram, but big vanilla and spice, backed by a whispering herb garden.  I was hooked on blending.

My favorite blend that I have ever made came out of the search for good uses for Balcones Brimstone, a Texas Scrub Oak whisky that resembled a mix of gasoline and barbecue sauce.  The flavors were intense and powerful, but hot and unpleasant (it turned out to be a great cooking whiskey, too, but more on that in another post).  At around this same time, somebody gifted me a bottle of Old Crow Reserve bourbon, hardly my favorite bourbon, but decent bourbon at $15/bottle.  I started teaspooning full measures of Old Crow Reserve with Balcones Brimstone, and magic happened.  The result was a bold, brash, and balanced whiskey wafting back and forth between spicy, earthy notes, and sweet cereal flavors.  If you’ve ever thought sweet corn would taste good smothered in caramel and a Cajun dry rub, this was the blend for you.

Not every blend I have ever tried has worked out, but not every person you date ends up being your spouse, but that’s why you date them.  The reason I blend whiskeys at home is because whiskeys are like people – sometimes that friend of yours growing up that always gets the group into trouble just needs to find the right person to be with to smooth out those rough edges and create a masterpiece.  Happy blending, y’all!  Let it ride!

Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Review

Today, I am reviewing Corner Creek Reserve, an 8 year old bourbon bottled and sold by Corner Creek Distilling (which I believe is owned by Willett, but I could be wrong about that one).  The bourbon comes packaged neatly in what appears to be an old wine bottle.  If you were to rip the label off, I suspect most folks would you think you had an old Brandy or Sherry on your hands (just imagine the picture from Corner Creek’s website without the label… http://www.cornercreekbourbon.com/Resources/ccbottle1.jpg).  Of course, like all great bourbon drinkers, I am not swayed by the packaging, and my taste buds do all the work in determining the quality of a whiskey (written with a sarcastic chuckle).  Corner Creek Reserve is bottled at 88 proof, but it is only lightly filtered, leading to a nice, hazy amber in the glass.

On the nose, Corner Creek has some nice vanilla, barrel char, tannins, over ripened berries, bananas, and dried bananas.  The palate is especially sweet with berry fruits and corn syrup, and very light-bodied.  Some bitter tannins begin to creep in towards the back of the palate and into the finish.  The finish is a bit tannic as well, but there is also cherry and vanilla along with a bit of the barrel char from the nose.  To me, this bourbon is sweet and sour throughout the whole way through, playing back and forth between the two.

Overall, I do like Corner Creek Reserve, but it is certainly not my favorite.  It could definitely be a great introduction to bourbon because it is so light and easy-drinking, but that only works if a person then goes on to find better bourbons.  If the sweet, berried, oaky flavor profile suits your palate, snag a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Collection instead.  The real highlight of Corner Creek is the price, which is very reasonable, especially compared to other bourbons the same age.  That said, there are too many other good bourbons on the market to keep this one around my cabinet very often.  My Grade: C.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a bourbon worth trying, but overall I just didn’t find it all that captivating.

Willett Family Estate Bottled 4 Year Single Barrel Rye Review

Today, I am reviewing a rare release bottled by Willett, their Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Rye.  It also marks my second tandem review with William from A Dram Good Time, in the midst of his very good series on American whiskeys.  This particular review is of barrel 79, and it is sourced from Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (the same distillery that sources Bulliet 95).  This is a straight rye whiskey, aged 4 years, and bottled at 110 proof.  I have reviewed Willett’s standard bourbon Estate Reserve on the site, and talked a little about Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.  Generally, KBD sources and bottles whiskey out of the old Willett distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.  However, the distillery was rebuilt a few years back, and it is active again.  I think we will see some pretty good whiskeys coming out of Willett within the next few years.Willett Single Barrel Rye

For now, we just have sourced whiskeys, but they definitely have a history of being pretty damn good.  KBD bottles sourced ryes and bourbons under the Willett label at many different ages, and most of them are bottled at their barrel strength.  The Willett rare releases can be pretty hard to find, but they are worth the buy if you can snag a bottle.

On the nose, this whiskey is pure rye, with bold notes of pumpernickel bread, ginger, basil, and some oregano.  The nose does have a solid backbone of the dill brine that exemplifies LDI ryes.  The palate enters with some sweetness, like honey roasted peanuts or cinnamon sugar.  In the back, it gets a little salty and sweet, like sweet gherkin pickles.  The finish brings some wonderful heat, but it is balanced with vanilla, caramel, lime juice, and sweet dill mayonnaise (not sure if that exists).

Overall, this is a pretty damn good rye whiskey.  It is young enough to maintain a big rye character, but aged enough to make it drinkable and well-rounded.  Water doesn’t do it much good in my opinion.  It brings out the pickle juice nose, and the whiskey loses some depth at lower proofs.  However, like anything else, try one of these Willett ryes for yourself and see what you think.  My Grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  For as hard as this one is to find, it is a great value.  If you like young ryes, this one is a great buy.

Here are William’s tasting notes and thoughts, and a link to his review.

Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye 4 Year Review Notes

Color:  Amber / Copper

Nose:  Vanilla frosting, crushed pine needles, spearmint, mint leaves, and light brown sugar.

Palate:  Creamy toffee, vanilla, dill weed, ginger, light cinnamon, slightly bitter oak, again light brown sugar, hints of maple, and mint. Very drinkable, so no water here.

Finish:  Long with toffee, spices, and mint – Just lingers along.

Overall this is a pretty well balanced whiskey, but given time in the glass the sweetness really starts to pull up. It also has a great amount of character and cask influence despite its age – Perhaps this is an example of how warehouse location makes a difference. The nose was fabulous, but the palate is what really shined to me – Absolutely great for the price as well.

Recommended

(What’s in) Phil’s Cabinet? March Edition

This is my cabinet as of March 1st, normally when I start to move towards more spring and summer whiskeys, but the seasons are so messed up in Boston that it is pretty hard to actually do anything concrete with them.

American:

Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey – A young, exciting whiskey from Bully Boy Distillers in Boston.

Bourbon:

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select – I cracked this one open the other day.  I know I’ve had a few requests for this one, and I’ll be reviewing it in a few weeks.

Angel’s Envy (unopened) – I’m saving this one for warmer temperatures.

Rebel Yell (unopened) – I’ve had some requests for this one, so I snagged a bottle the other day.  I’ll have a review up as soon as I kick a few of the other open bottles presently in my cabinet.

William Larue Weller (2012 bottling) – I opened this one up during Nemo the blizzard, and I haven’t decided whether or not to review this one yet.  At $70, it is right on the upper end of my price range for whiskey.  Any thoughts?

Rye:

Old Overholt Rye (unopened) – This is another one I have had some requests for, and although I have a bottle, it might be a month or two before a review goes up.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (2012 bottling) (unopened) – This one will probably get opened up before it gets too warm in Boston.  Like the Weller, let me know if you want to see a review on the blog.

Willett 4 yr. Estate Reserve Single Barrel – This one is going to be a tandem review with William from a Dram Good Time.  We should have our notes up for you by the end of next week.

Scotch:

Bowmore Legend – I should have a review of this Islay scotch up as soon as I finish my mini-series on Irish whiskey.

Those are the whiskeys I have in the cabinet as of March 1st, let me know if there are any reviews you would like to see.  In the meantime, let it ride!

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!

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.