American Whiskey

Review: Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

>4 yrs
51% rye, 35% Corn, 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

This was released a few years ago from Heaven Hill - who already produce the well-known rittenhouse and pikesville ryes. It is a corn-heavy rye mashbill, with only 51% rye - but this has come to the market with much acclaim and represents another high-quality, reasonably priced rye.

Review (2022)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2022

The “first to char oak” on the label gave me a good eye-roll before I jumped in to this.

The nose is rich, and full of oak and the waxy, vanilla, and light coconut aroma that you get with new American oak. There is a very appealing light dusty character, spice, and dried fruit character with a rich, fatty, corn character still in the mix. Some nice candied fruit notes too. The palate is spicy, oaky, and with a light touch of corn husk and the fullness of fatty corn too. The finish is lightly fruity – dried fruit on the dried berry character – as well as having a spicy, herbal character of rye. It still has an interesting nutty note, too.

How does this compare to Rittenhouse? It is richer, with more oak and a bit more focused, frankly, on the corn characteristics with a heavy rye accent rather than the rye characteristics with a heavy corn accent. Overall, a nice aged, corn-heavy rye whisky. I like it more as a sipper than Rittenhouse, but less as a mixer (and, notably, less of a sipper than Elijah Craig bourbon).

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

Value: Average at $80.

Review: Willet Family Estate Small Batch Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

~4 years; Virgin Charred Oak
Distiller Willett (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Willett is making their own rye whiskey now, after a very successful run with purchasing some very nice rye and bourbon barrels which were previously bottled under their “family estate” brand.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N.A, 54%

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling date: N/A

The nose is woody – vanilla, beeswax, coconut, and with youthful rye tones that are slightly herbal and quite earthy. The earthy character is quite remarkable – it reminds me of fields of grain in the fall, dried up and a bit dusty. There is some light dried fruit character, too – on the lighter side towards peaches rather than richer apricot. The palate has a bit more of a spicy intensity but it is tempered significantly by a wave of sweet, American oak full of vanilla and coconut. The waxiness persists. The finish is slightly raw, with grain, lots more earth, and baking spice. Slightly tannic, but not too much.

A bit disappointing, to be honest, after the incredible quality of their other family estate ryes from single barrels (at least the MGP versions I’ve tried).

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

Value: Low (based on $110)

Review: Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon by Jason Hambrey

charred virgin oak casks
68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley
Distiller Wyoming Whiskey (Kirby, Wyoming)

Wyoming is one of the foremost bourbon producers outside of Kentucky - they use full size barrels, employ one of the best blenders in the US, and get all kinds of praise from critics. Wyoming whiskey is made, obviously, in Wyoming from a recipe that uses wheat as the secondary flavouring grain after corn, rather than the usual rye. Wheated bourbons are always in demand, especially good ones.

This might just be me, but it seems that a lot of Scotch drinkers like this bourbon. It is immensely complex, broad,  and a bit less focused on oak and corn than some other bourbons. I think a lot of the fruity and floral notes are more relatable than heavy oak and corn to Scotch drinkers.

Review (2021)

  • Batch: 63

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 8-16-19

Bottled in 2019 and not in Canada until the end of 2021! It’s always interesting to see how long some product can take to get to shelves.

The nose on this is fantastic! Very nice floral characteristics – rose in particular – but then also lots of dried apricot, raisin, dried cherry, dried cranberry, cream of wheat, something savoury and rich (brown butter?), cream-heavy caramel, white pepper, and white grape. Develops over time – parts get richer, and the citrus (like lemon peel)  and the corn comes out with time. The berries and fruit shift from dried to stewed, too. A really nice mix of bright fruit, floral, and confectionary aromas and yet clearly built upon a backbone of corn. The palate is loaded with the fruit and floral characteristics, but it adds in loads of baking spices and light tannins. It’s a bit zesty, which plays in well with the tannins. The savoury, brown butter character, remains and it is fantastic. The finish has lots of dried rose, with slowly unfolding tannins and complex grain notes.

Very nice bourbon! It shows a different side of what bourbon can be – Kentucky is, generally, focused on different flavours coming from grain, yeast, and wood.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: high, at $60.

Review: Maker's Mark 101 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

New Charred Oak
70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky)

The founder of Maker’s Mark, Bill Samuels Senior, always liked the flavors released at 101 proof in Maker’s Mark bourbon. He would set it aside for special occasions. The distillery, in turn, offered this whisky to guests who visited Maker’s Mark – but now, they’ve put forward a broader release. I’ve always liked Maker’s at higher proofs – Maker’s 46 (granted, it’s a bit different in profile) and the cask strength releases.

Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L1123MMB 06231 1041

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

Maker’s Mark, through and through here – bright fruit (dried apricot, cherry, plum), corn, toffee, and all sorts of dessert-like characteristics. It’s quite sweet – the caramel just booms on the nose. Very nice, refined grain notes in the background….the palate follows – relatively soft for a 50% bourbon – rich and with a great mouthfeel. The finish jumps up with some berries, toffee, and sweet oak before fading into spices.

Pretty much what you’d expect for a higher proof Maker’s – all the core characteristics, concentrated a bit more. Perhaps, not as hot as you might expect given the jump in ABV.

A bit pricy at $100! I suppose, relative to where bourbon has been – on a quality basis against Scotch, this would be par for the course.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $100. There are certainly better buys in bourbon, but this isn’t disappointing either against whisky in general.

Review: Russell's Reserve 10 Year's Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Russell's Reserve 10 2.jpg
Charred Virgin Oak
75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

I go back and forth on how much I like Wild Turkey. While they have some fantastic offerings at the higher levels, and their 101 and rare breeds have their charm - sometimes their products miss the mark for me. But, I can’t resist good bourbon….this represents one of the older and more refined regular bottles coming from Wild Turkey.

Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: LL/IC270901

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose seems to showcase malt quite clearly. Green apple, pears, brown sugar, rich oak, heirloom corn grits, caramel, and a really nice set of baking spices and oiliness. There is a thick, rich, oaky sweetness on the nose. The nose also reminds me of freshly cracked hazlenuts – we used to have a tree. The palate seems to brings forth more dried fruit (apricots, prunes) and the richness of the oak and the spices remain at the core. The oak is slightly bitter on the palate. The finish has dried orange peel, dried apricot, baking spices, and a bit of tobacco.

I like this – it is definitely more refined than the younger versions (which have a roughness that give them some appeal). Pretty good for the price – these days at least.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: high at $55.