Sunday, December 30, 2012

Whiskey of The Year - John J. Bowman 14 Year TPS Single Barrel #45

Happy Holidays!  It's that time of year when 'Best of' lists have circulated, so I've decided to throw my hat into the ring.
It's been almost one year since I began my obsession with American Whiskey, and in the last 12 months I believe I have sampled (okay drank a shit load) of this year's finest releases, and there have been a plethora of exceptional bottles.  The Parker's Heritage Collection blend of mashbills from Heaven Hill is fantastic.  The Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is superb.  The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection did not disappoint, especially the Weller and Stagg.  However, the most enjoyable pours I have had this year hail from a very small distillery, A. Smith Bowman in Virginia, specifically the John J. Bowman Single Barrel #45 (hand picked by and exclusive to The Party Source).

John J. Bowman Single Barrel #45 - 100 proof - 14 Years Old - $55

I am going to keep the tasting notes short:

Nose - Smells more like 120 proof as the alcohol burns your nose, then makes way for a bouquet of impending fantabuluousness (this word will be in Webster's soon)

Taste - Despite the high proof feeling from the nose, it tastes like 100 proof and every bit of it.  For me the flavors are simply incredible, as spice and fruitiness just explode in all directions.

Finish - Lingers for a good 30 seconds or longer.

Score 98/100

This is perhaps the closest thing to a flawless whiskey I have tried in my short experience with American Whiskey.  
At the risk of the last 79 bottles disappearing too fast you can find it here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Jefferson's Presidential Select - 18 Years Old

Jefferson's Presidential Select - 18 Years Old - Batch #18, bottle #572 - 94 proof - McLain & Kyne "Distillers" - $70
McLain & Kyne do not distill this whiskey, they bottle barrels of whiskey that they have purchased.  As the label states - "Distilled from wheat in the spring of 1991 - Aged in Stitzel-Weller Barrels" - This is where the mystery sets in for us.  Was it merely aged in old SW barrels, or is this the last of the whiskey distilled by SW (which ceased operations in 1992)???  Is every drop of juice from S-W, or just some of it?  This Stitzel-Weller mystery does not mean shit to most people, but to bourbon fanatics such as myself it means a whole hell of a lot.  Imagine one of  the greatest brewers of beer on the planet suddenly closing up shop and the frenzy to purchase and drink the last bottles/kegs that would follow.  Imagine the producer of some of  the best wine in the world deciding to stop growing grapes and the craziness to get that last bottle that would ensue.  That is the same type of mystique that surrounds the Stizel-Weller distillery.  Why SW would be considered to have made some of  the best bourbon ever distilled on this is the same reason that Stone Brewing, Samuel Adams etc. may be considered some of  the best beer ever brewed on this planet - because it just fuckin' tastes unique and better than most or many of the others.  Does the legend and difficulty in obtaining a sip of SW whiskey have anything to do with it?  Probably.

If you find this SW thing intriguing (maybe you don't at this point - I'm not much of a writer) check out this time line of the history or this condensed version of SW info from Jason Pyle.

Okay, enough B.S.

Smells like a floral, perfume-y (in a good way) awesomeness of impending flavor.

Taste -  An explosion of wood (it's been sitting in charred oak for 18 years after all), corn, smoke and cinnamon spice.  A perfect leathery, vanilla balance of yumminess.

Score - 97/100

Get a bottle if you can.  The 2 on my shelf set me back $70 each, but the 5 bottles at my local BevMo are going for $100.  It's not going to get any cheaper or easier to find.  You can get a sip or two for free if you know where to find me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Elmer T. Lee

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel - 90 proof. Buffalo Trace Distillery - $26
Born in 1919, Elmer T. Lee is one of only two living men to have their name on a bottle of bourbon (the other being Jimmy Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey).  At the age of 93, rumor has it that Mr. Lee still selects the barrels that fill the bottles bearing his name.  Read more about Mr. Lee here.

Smell - Butterscotch.  Vanilla.  Rye.  Leather & tobacco.

Taste - Great spice from the rye.  Clover,cinnamon, honey, and a bit of oak.  In my short time with bourbon, this whiskey has the most perfect balance of sweet & spicy that I have tasted.

Finish - The spice sticks around for a good minute or two.  Yes, that is a good thing.  I don't like it when the spice leaves the party too soon.

95/100 - The highest score I have given so far.  At $26 you really cannot beat this.  I've had whiskey at twice the price that are not nearly as flavorful.  I won't name names.
I'd love to see Buffalo Trace come up with a barrel strength version of this.

Find it here or here if you live in Cali.  If you live east of the Mighty Miss try The Party Source.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Old Grand-Dad

Old Grand-Dad Bottled in Bond, 100 proof.  Jim Beam Distillery - $20
Produced by Beam Inc, there are 3 versions of OGD - 86 proof, 100 proof BIB, and 114 proof.
This review is for the 100 proof BIB (bottled in bond).  Old Grand Dad is a reference to Basil Hayden who began distilling a high rye grain bourbon in the late 1700's, and this OGD is allegedly a similar recipe.

Bottled in Bond is (from Wikipedia, as I would have nothing to add)

Bottled in bond refers to American-made spirit that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the United States government's Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5.21, et. seq.), as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897,
To be labeled as "Bottled-in-Bond" or "Bonded," the spirit must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at one distillery. It must have been stored (i.e., aged) in a federally bonded warehouseunder U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product's label must identify the distillery (by DSP number) where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled.

Nose - Brown sugar, corn, toffee.  

Flavor - If I were asked "what does bourbon TASTE like" or "give me a pour of something that tastes like bourbon in it's most raw form", I would pour this.  The taste is very bold, very spicy and somewhat woody.  Fantastic balance between the sweetness of the corn and the peppery quality of the rye.  

Score - 88 - Highly recommended, especially considering the $20 price.  If you are new to American whiskey, try this next.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

WHISTLEPIG Straight Rye Whiskey

Whistlepig 100% Rye Whiskey, 10 Years old. 100 Proof - $65
Hand bottled at WhistlePig Farm in Shoreham, Vermont.  Product of Canada.  WTF?  Sounds confusing.  This is "found whiskey."  Distilled in Canada from an unnamed source, very mysterious.  Basically these WhistlePig people bought some barrels of rye whiskey from a Canadian producer and aged/bottled it for us to enjoy.  I read that they plan to eventually grow the rye themselves in Vermont and distill the whiskey.  Can't wait, though I guess I will have to wait another 10 years or so.

Smell - Very nutty quality to the aroma.  Oddly I cannot really smell much rye, which I was expecting as this is 100% rye.

Taste - Nutty, nutty, nutty.  Spicy almonds, maybe pistachio.  More like an almond had sex with a pistachio and created this mutant offspring.  Nice licorice flavors and spicy rye.  De-fuckin'-licious!

Finish - The spice stays on the tongue for a good two minutes at least, as do the nutty flavors.

Score - 91

Only 1000 cases produced, so good luck finding a bottle.  I'm sure there are a few out there. If you live in SoCal check Hi Times Wine Cellar in Costa Mesa.
Worth a splurge for it's uniqueness.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Kentucky Mule

Rather than post a review this week I thought I'd share this tasty cocktail. The Kentucky Mule is just a Moscow Mule made with bourbon or rye instead of vodka.  Read about the  Moscow Mule here.
If you do not have these sweet copper mugs for you bar I highly recommend investing in a pair(s).  They keep the drink super cold and are just fun to drink out of.  We picked up ours on Amazon.
Just 4 ingredients - Fill the mug with ice, 1-2 shots of a mid priced bourbon or rye (we used the Elijah Craig 12  year, about $24), then fill the rest of the mule mug with Ginger Beer and add some lemon or lime.  Very refreshing on a warm day, especially to reward yourself after building a garden, tree house, or a dog house for your dog/husband to sleep in.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

W.L. Weller 12 Year - A "Wheated" Bourbon

W.L. Weller 12 Years Old, Buffalo Trace Distillery - 90 proof - $24
This, as well as all Weller products, is a "wheated" bourbon. Most straight bourbon is distilled using corn (at least 51%) , rye, and barley.  William Larue Weller (1825-1899) was allegedly the first distiller to produce straight bourbon using wheat in the mash bill instead of rye.  Substituting wheat for rye makes for a sweater, less spicy, less dry bourbon.

The nose has very pleasant aromas of maple, vanilla and caramel.  After 10-15 minutes in the glass the maple smell is more prevalent.
The whiskey coats my palate with everything in the nose.  I can also taste what I always like to describe as the 'bark' from the center of a Butterfingers bar.  Kind of a toffee/caramel flavor.
The finish lingers with sweetness for a good 30 seconds.
Absolutely delicious.  For me, this is every bit as good as the Van Winkle 12 year for less than 1/2 the price.

In the short time that I have been enjoying American Whiskey (about 6 months), I have tried about 40 different products.  This is by far my favorite for under $25, and one of my go to pours.  Damn!  I finished the bottle.  Looks like a trip to Costa Mesa in my future, or perhaps I will have them ship a few bottles.
92/100 - Highly recommended

Saturday, June 2, 2012

High West Double Rye

Park City, Utah - 92 proof - $34

Yeah that's right, Utah - Home of Mormons, the Sundance Film Festival, and a high percentage of porn addicts.  High West does not distill this product.  This is a blend of two very different rye whiskeys from two different distilleries "back east" as the label puts it, so Kentucky and/or Illinois/Indiana.  One of the rye's is a 2 year old, 95% rye and 5% barley.  The other is a 16 year old, 53% rye, 37% corn and 10% barley.

Aromas - I get the rye smell, which smells like sarsaparilla/root beer to me, though very subtle.  Minty.  Evergreen/pine tree, some gin like aroma.  Very "forest" like.

Taste -  Wow! Everything described above on the aroma comes through on the taste buds.  If there is such a thing as a refreshing whiskey, this is it.  I always drink my whiskey neat, and that's a good thing because on ice I could suck this down like iced tea on a hot day.

I look forward to trying the other High West products.
Would absolutely pick this up again.

92/100 - Buy it.  Drink it.  Buy it again.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Breaking & Entering Bourbon

From St. George Distillery, Alamada, CA.  86 proof, $33

St. George does not actually distill this product.  They purchase barrels from distillers in Kentucky and blend them until they find the flavor they are looking for.  Breaking & Entering was produced by blending 80 barrels of bourbon aged from 5-7 years.

I was never good at picking out different flavors in wine.  I'd read a review on a bottle and see that it tasted like  dark chocolate, cherry, apricot, whatever blah blah.  All I could taste was red wine - sometimes outstanding, sometimes good, sometimes rather unpleasant.

My bourbon/rye reviews will not contain any pretentious bullshit, only what I can actually taste.  So if I tell you that I smell vanilla, it's because that is what I am smelling.  I will try and avoid using phrases like "notes of" or "hints of."  I will try and only review a bottle after I have consumed at least half of it.  Unless otherwise stated, I am drinking these neat in a brandy snifter.

Okay, down to business:
Nose - I can actually smell banana cream on this, and some honey.  Smells like dessert!

Taste - Good spice and considerable burn for an 86 proof whiskey with little alcohol coming through.  The banana cream comes through on the tongue, and a bit of cinnamon type flavor though very subtle.

Overall this is a solid whiskey.  I did cheat a little as I have only gone through about 1/3 of the bottle.  I would probably pick this up again, though there are many better bottles under $33.

Score - 85/100