American Whiskey

Review: Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

four+Roses+Small+Batch+2.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
Blend of OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK Recipes
Distiller Four Roses (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

Four Roses distillery uses 5 proprietary yeast strains, and two mashbills (recipes), to produce 10 different bourbons which it produces and ages separately and then blends into their bourbons. This whiskey, Small Batch, is created from 4 of these recipes. These are the OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK. The first two -“OB” recipes – utilize a high-rye mashbill: 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. The second two – “OE” recipes – utilize a lower-rye mashbill: 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley.

The flavour impact of yeast – a fundamental ingredient for any sort of alcohol production isdemonstrated clearly in the different bourbon offerings by Four Roses. As for the yeasts, the two used in Small Batch are the Four Roses “O” (OBSO,OESO) and “K” yeasts (OBSK,OESK). The “O” yeast, according to Four Roses, contributes “delicate fruitiness” to the whiskey, while the “K” yeast contributes “slight spice” to the whiskey.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Some very nice honey plays into this one, and it is one of the first things I notice. Dried corn also seems to be quite present at the front of the nose, and there’s a slight background creaminess as well. Caramel, rich vanilla, and fruit – cherries, pears, – with a slight rose-y floral edge too! As for spice, there’s some fennel and black pepper. Some of the earthiness comes out in both the oak and the corn – as you can read, this is nicely complex and all the elements play very well together, and there’s loads of wonderful subtlety. Very enjoyable.

Taste: Sweet, with some dried corn coming through front and center along with some light fruitiness -cherry particularly, and a bit of grapefruit – and a tinge of a yeasty flavour as well. Some nice, lightly earthy oak toward the end as well. There’s some nice spice too – some cinnamon, sweet star anise, and some other light baking spices. There’s also a bit of an almost vegetal note to this – or perhaps herbal – mint, I suppose, but with a qutie vegetal characteristic beyond the lighter, menthol note. The grains are brilliant, too – you can taste the corn, and the candied nature of the rye is there very nicely. And a bit of a background cola note too. The movement and balance work well – sometimes the grassiness of the rye is a bit out of place, but it is minimal.

Finish: Light oak, dried corn, apple, cherry juice, caramel, cinnamon, …with the lightest bitter tinge which is ever-so-slightly detracting. The finish is quite full in terms of feel, and slowly fades and unpacks – and it is still fairly sweet. The oak also has a freshly charred and smoky quality which I very much enjoy. Also, overall, quite rich.

I find this whiskey very easy to drink, and it slips down without much of an issue. It’s light, fresh, fruity, with some light spice too. The oak, the soft fruit, and the floral nature of this bourbon – very very nice, and most definitely recommended. It also tends to get better the more you drink it....

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $40.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

The nose has coconut, dried fruit, potpourri, and slightly smoky and oaky. The palate is slightly spicy, with a nice dried fruit character and a rich corn core. The finish is full of baking spice, fruit, tobacco, and oak which eventually dominates. It’s a rather short review, but I really wanted to have another go at this to see if I still liked it as much as last time – and I do.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $50 CAD - even better in the USA where you can find this for around $30 USD.


Review: Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Willet Pot still 1.jpg
ABV
47%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller N/A (Produced By Willett)

This whiskey was the flagship Willett brand before the distillery started to distill in 2012, and, thus, it was based on sourced product. Now, it may be their own product - but they could well be still sourcing the whisky so I left the Distiller as “N/A”.

The bottle for this product is extremely unique - it is in the shape of a pot still, and it certainly stands out. The picture above is of a mini bottle, which are also in the pot still shape!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 16G09

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is very fruity and unusual for a bourbon – plums, red mulberries, white gooseberry, dried pineapple – but we also have oak and a bit of dry, sweet oak and maple. There are some nice floral touches and a bit of vegetal rye – a hit with me, always. The palate continues with the fruit notes but it has a really nice touch of earthiness and fruity rye, and some caramel – but it’s a lighter sugar caramel rather than a really rich one. Quite herbal - the finish has apple, sweet corn, light herbal notes, and a rich woodiness. Quite a nice bourbon!

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High at around the $40 USD mark, at least against the Canadian market. Much higher than that, it falls more into the average value category.


Review: Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Photo courtesy of Hochstadter’s Whiskey.

Photo courtesy of Hochstadter’s Whiskey.

ABV
50%
Aging
4-15 Yrs; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
Various
Distiller Various

Now here is something rather interesting! This is a mixture of 4-15 year old straight rye whiskies from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, and Alberta. It’s quite rare to see mixtures of vatted straight ryes from different distilleries - this is the only one that comes to mind. Moreover, this is another Canadian-American blend which is rare, but present in some premium examples like Little Book. I love the Hochstadter’s 16 year old, and the Lock,Stock and Barrel whiskies all from Cooper Spirits - so I have high expectations here.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

A gorgeous nose, with a lot of depth. Oak, caramel, a farmy grain character, dried fruit, a light medicinal characteristic, orange, baking spice, and dark potting soil. Amazing! It really blends together well the traditional styles of American and Canadian rye. The palate is slightly sweet, but rich and juicy with loads of spices, oak, citrus, and dried fruit. There is a really nice tannic structures on the palate, and a slight touch of acidity – making this very drinkable. The finish has some pomegranate, oak, clove, and cherry. Oak dominates at the end, with rich woody and vanilla notes.

The empty glass is glorious. Loads of spices, dried fruit, but it’s still slightly yeasty and farmy in a good way.

This is terrific! If I lived in a place where I could buy this, it would be my everyday rye.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. It’s not often that you can find something this good for prices like this.


Review: High West Rendezvous Rye Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
Blend of 6 and 16 year old straight rye
Distiller Multiple (USA)

Perhaps the most well known product from High West, Rendezvous is a blend of 2 rye whiskies – a 6 year old and a 16 year old. 6 year rye from MGP (95% rye, 5% barley) and the 16 year old rye is from a mashbill of 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% malted barley from Barton. This uses a large proportion of unmalted rye. Now, the 16 year old rye from Barton is being phased out, replaced with High West’s own rye.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 16E11

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A nice, rich, oaky nose – full of spicy mint and some terrific underlying floral notes. A terrific nose – great underlying dried fruit, cherry, earth, brown cardamom, corn husks, and some light mineral notes. Much richer and broader than double rye – buttery, oaky, and full of such rich rye to boot. The palate is spicy, broad, and complex – with a contrast between the sweet oak, spice, and rye floral notes. And great underlying vegetal notes. I do love floral rye. The finish shows some dried apricot and toasted macadamia. Terrific!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Great whisky, but fairly pricy too.


Review (2019)

  •  Batch: 17C23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

This rye is still using the 16 year old rye from Barton, but it’s one of the last batches to do so.

Loads of dill, sweet and sharp oak, vanilla, cinnamon, rich marsh, arugula, mint, mixed berries, and some toasted fennel. What a nice whisky! The palate is oaky, spicy, and lightly fruity. Chipotles, oak, dill, maple, charred oak, sorrel, and a touch of nutmeg. The finish has some nice dill, oak, and clove. A nice mix of leafy, spicy vegetables (radish sprouts, arugula), baking spice, oak, and sweet oak.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

The taste is on the edge in terms of this rating category, but this is such a classic example of a deep, complex, and broad American rye – it really is quite unique. Furthermore, it’s not too oaky and has a nice elegant touch to it as well. It’s one of my favourite – if not my favourite – American rye that is fairly easy to find.

Value: Average. It’s a very nice whisky, and sits in the average price range for a whisky of this qu


Review: Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
43%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This whiskey was produced in collaboration between Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey - it has resulted in a bourbon about 8 years old which is filtered through both american oak charcaol and texas mesquite charcoal to soften out the whiskey a bit.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is spicy, with apple, oak, and corn – but it is quite clean and light for a bourbon. What glorious oak! It’s lighter than i expected for a wold turkey – which makes sense given the charcoal filtration. The taste is full of grain - dried fruit and rye, and nice vanilla laden oak, but also with light-spices  and dark fruit, and toasted notes. A very easy-going bourbon. The finish is oaky, with dried fruit. Lightly sweet. A very easy-going bourbon.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $60. But, in the bourbon category, below average.


Review: Jack Daniel's Barrel Proof Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
66.65%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~80% Corn, 8% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jack Daniels (Lynchburg, Tennessee)

These are rather hidden secrets coming from Jack Daniel’s, not too hard to find and not too expensive. It’s certainly a much more refined, bigger, and expressive Jack!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel 18-0394 (bottled 1.11.2018, 66.65%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This smells so much like Jack Daniels with the hit of spicy caramel, but it’s so much bigger, spicier, and rounded. Rich oak, caramel, toasted fennel seed, dried orange, clove, wood char, and dried berries. The palate has a depth of corn, with a touch of nice vegetal rye (arugula), spices, and loads more caramel. Lots of banana, too. The palate is so big and spicy, even if water is added! The finish is rich with corn, spice, and caramel notes. There is a nice kick of oak and tannin on the finish, too. Fantastic!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is pretty universally liked among my bourbon lovers who don’t like most Jack Daniel’s bottlings, so I suggest giving this one a try if you like big bourbons.

Value: Average. It’s not a bad price for a cask strength whisky of this calibre, but it’s still sitting around 65 USD.


Review: Maker's Mark Private Select Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (Selected by BC Liquor Stores) by Jason Hambrey

Makers+Private+Select+1.jpg
ABV
55.2%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley
Distiller Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky)

These Maker’s Mark private selections are fantastic. It is like a customized Maker’s 46 (which I quite like), but at cask strength with custom staves. The whisky is made by putting aged Maker’s Mark into barrels with 10 custom staves for 9 months. It is different from Maker’s 46 in two ways – it has a custom set of staves and is bottled at cask strength.

These was selected by BC liquor stores, with a few different staves – 1 baked American pure stave, 3 Maker’s 46 staves, 4 Roasted French Mocha staves, and 2 toasted French spice staves. It’s bottled at cask strength, 55.2% ABV.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L8235MMC 02252 1521

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Rich, diverse aromas. Corn, cacao, baking spices, rosehips, baking almond cookies, prunes, dried apricot, orange, and some pear. A great, complex nose - and it’s full of rich, spicy, buttery oak. The palate is big, with a kick of fresh polenta, uncooked basmati rice, layers of oak, more dried fruit, spice, and a nice balancing sweetness. The finish is mostly on oak, but with a fair share of dried fruit as well. Excellent!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A nice buy for 100$ CAD, if you want to spend that.


Review: Little Book Blended Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Little+Book+1.jpg
ABV
59.4%
Aging
8-40 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
A blend of straight rye and corn whiskies
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This is quite the endeavor - a blend of Kentucky Straight Rye (8 years old) with a Canadian straight rye (13 years old) and a Canadian corn whisky (40 years old). One can assume the Canadian portion came from Alberta, since Beam owns that remarkable distillery - but it may have been sourced elsewhere. Talk about unique.

This review is for the second release, which differed from the first release which was based around a 4 year old straight bourbon, a 6 year old rye, a 13 year old corn whiskey, and a 6 year old 100% malt whiskey..


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Chapter 2: Noe Small Task

  • Bottling Code: 1689597L5 13:53 17199

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Sharp, diverse, and complex nose. Mint, lemon peel, pickled lemons, arugula, oak – loaded with oak, so it’s not very much like a Canadian blended whisky despite the Canadian components. It’s a bit sweet – and it’s quite deep. Sweet tarts, dried chanterelles, truffle oil, toasted macadamias, toasted hazlenuts, mixed sprouts, blueberry, canola oil

Deep, yet quite soft. The palate is full of a mix of all sorts of rye – fruity, spicy, herbal (radishes), and cinnamon. Still, there is a nice corn body to this, and a very nice mix of spicy and rich grain notes. What a nice, complex whisky. There is an incredibly rich nuttiness and herbaceousness present, and the balance is terrific – especially at cask strength. The finish is lightly sweet, with some nice spices in tow. The herbal characteristics are not lost at all, and the rich oakiness remains throughout. This is just about a perfect fall whisky.

It has less colour than most bookers, probably because the Canadian rye was refill casks. It is an entirely different animal than a booker’s which is much more focused on corn and a bit more focused on a big bourbon profile than Little Book, which is very much in its own category – but with deep American rye whiskey nods.

One of my favourite American-produced whiskies to date.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is at the higher end of this category, too.

Value: Average (based on $130).


Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey (Barreled 2009) by Jason Hambrey

Knob Creek 2009 2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
N/A (but at least 51% Rye)
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This was a special release in 2018, and it came with anticipation - a cask strength, 9 year old knob creek rye! Some people certainly liked it, given that Whisky Advocate named it their number 2 whisky of the year.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barreled in 2009, Warehouse A

  • Bottling Code: L3182CLH 13282005

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Very oaky, and quite intense. Some of that classic Jim Beam rye nuttiness and vegetal character (buckwheat, perhaps?), mint, sorrel, cacao, and oak. Very rich. There is more – hazelnut oil, roasted celeriac, baking spices, a hint of patchouli, freshly milled whole wheat, and a bit of mandarin.

The palate is sharp and spicy, with loads of oak (fairly tannic), mint, patchouli, bitter clove, black pepper, mint, wild rice, lilac, and tannic oak. Corn is not absent either, with some rich corn husk coming through at the end. Extremely flavourful. The finish is quite herbal, tannic, and oaky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A very nice whisky, but still a fairly high price (~100 CAD). If you like it more than I do, as some do, value would be higher, of course.


Review: Elijah Craig Single Barrel for Kensington Wine Market (2019) by Jason Hambrey

Elijah+Craig+KWM+Single+Barrel.jpg
ABV
47%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
75% Corn; 13% Rye; 12% Malt
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

One of many single cask selections that Kensington Wine Market in Calgary does, but mostly Scotch – only a couple of bourbons are chosen. Barrel 5214622, warehouse F, floor 3, barrel 17 F.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel 5214622

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Soft for an Elijah Criag, not quite as oaky as many. Sweet honey, roasted hazlenuts and pistachios and other mixed nuts, corn oil, tobacco, leather, maple, and even something a bit floral – like potpourri! Old musty oak too – I love that smell in a bourbon. A sweet, oaky palate which is fairly complex – with nuts, spices, and some orange all working well together. The finish is full of oaky caramel, honey – and a bit of earthiness too which is a very nice touch. Quite a nice finish – rich, complex, with decent length.

Oddly, lots of oak here but not very tannic. I’m a bit surprised; it makes it seem a bit lighter than it is.

I rate it very similarly, but I think I actually slightly prefer the official bottlings of Elijah Craig, as I do like the bigger oakiness in Elijah Craig – but I think this would appeal to those who like softer, less oaky bourbons. This showcases a different side of Elijah Craig stock.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. In bourbons alone, it’s a bit below par.