American Whiskey

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

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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.


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

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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

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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.


Review: American Rockies Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Picture courtesy of the Fountana Beverage Corp..

Picture courtesy of the Fountana Beverage Corp..

ABV
44%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Producer Wyoming (Kirby, Wyoming)

This is produced by the Fountana group, alongside their terrific Canadian Rockies whiskies. This is sourced from the mountains of Wyoming, so in all likelihood it is from the well-reputed Wyoming Distillery.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has some sharp wood – almost with sharp pine-like notes. Orange peel, bean sprouts, cream of wheat, anise, corn grits, clove, dill, and prunes. Some nice candied notes too – Reisen and Toffifee. And with time, some berry notes. The palate is very well integrated, with a very nice thread of dried corn, light spice, mixed dried Italian herbs, and very pleasing vanilla and toffee. The balance between the fruit, grain, and oak is terrific. The finish is sweet, lightly oaky, lightly grainy. This is good! It’s quite a lighter style of bourbon, but it has some nice elegance to it.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is a really nice complex bourbon that isn’t too big. It’s a bit different, too, to its credit – with more herbal and unique fruit notes than in many bourbons.

Value: Average. It’s not a bad buy, but you could do better with different bourbons for $71.


Review: Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
46%
Aging
Used 5 Gallon Barrels
Recipe
Roasted Heirloom Blue Corn
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This whiskey is made from double distilled heirloom blue corn, matured in used 5 gallon casks for a limited time. It is released young and youthful - intentionally - in order to display the character of the blue heirloom corn used to make the whiskey. The first whiskey released in Texas since prohibition, and perhaps the cornerstone whiskey which established Balcones as a leader in craft distilling.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is sharp and young – oily, unripe pear, jalapeno, white pepper, but is full of lots of toffee, mixed roasted nuts, and lots of tropical fruit. But – it evolves, with cinnamon, sunflower oil, dried corn, and terrific roasted notes. The palate has lots of toffee, with some spice, tea, and light oak – and rich sunflower and corn oil (which does a nice trick!). The finish is lightly sour, with more toffee and some pear – but rich and spicy - the spices on the end are brilliant. Young, but very well crafted – the distillate comes through beautifully and it is creamy, rich, and spicy – and a bit candied. It is terrific!

I really like it. The youthfulness on the nose does detract the score, though. But, that being said – I do like whiskies that show good underlying distillate – and this has that.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This really is unique, and shows the amazing depth that a young whisky can have, and, moreover, one made from the typically one-dimensional corn! This is rather unique in the world of whisky.

Value: Medium. At about 60$ USD, it’s a bit high in cost for what you get. I was between low and medium for this, but it gets the bump to medium for uniqueness.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: BB18-3

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is raw, rich, and so full of corn. It is awesome. Sweet, oily, and creamy – with vanilla, prunes, dried apricot, blood orange, clove, and baking cinnamon rolls. The palate is so creamy! What a wonderful mix of oak, berry notes, tobacco, cacao, and dried corn. The finish is slightly tannic, with lots of vanilla, oak, dried fruit, and light baking spice (nutmeg too). Awesome!

Highly Recommended. This really is unique, and shows the amazing depth that a young whisky can have, and, moreover, one made from the typically one-dimensional corn! This is rather unique in the world of whisky.

Value: Medium. At about 60$ USD, it’s a bit high in cost for what you get. I was between low and medium for this, but it gets the bump to medium for uniqueness.

Score: 87/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $93)


Review: Balcones Brimstone Scrub Oak Smoked Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
53%
Aging
>1 Day
Recipe
Roasted Heirloom Blue Corn
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

Scrub oak is a variety of small, shrubby oak present throughout the US. They are more shrubs than trees, so you wouldn’t make barrels from them, but Balcones found a use for this oak here! They smoke the distillate as part of a proprietary process, and it is aged for “at least one day” in accordance with whisky regulations in the USA (though I’m not sure how long it is actually aged, but it isn’t labeled a bourbon or straight bourbon, so it is presumably not aged that long).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: BRM18-2 (Bott. 3.28.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is gorgeous. Rich woodiness and multifaceted oak, but this is offset by a light berry fruitiness and some rich dried fruit. Frying tomato paste, sandalwood, and rosewood. A home smoker at work…The palate has terrific mouthfeel and contains a terrific hit of smoke, black pepper, vanilla, and clean oak. There are terrific dried fruits throughout. The finish is smoky, rich, and woody. I do love this stuff!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s the first non-peated smoky whisky I’ve really taken to. It has a rich woodiness, smokiness, and it’s distinctly smoky and non-Scottish.

Value: Average. It’s pretty good to get a unique, smoky whisky like this for about $70 US. It competes with some of the cheaper Scottish peated whiskies pretty well – but it really is in a category by itself. If you’re good to lay out 70 USD for a whisky, this is a decent pick, but it’s still 70 USD.


Review: Balcones 1 Texas Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
53%
Aging
19 Months
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This is another American Single Malt, but it is very American – it doesn’t taste Scottish. I appreciate distilleries that are forging their own paths, like American distilleries trying to create a different style, not just replicate Scottish single malts. It’s certainly seen a lot of oak, given the colour!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: SM18-3 (I think; hard to read; bottled 5.8.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has strawberry jam, roasted grain, blanched tomatoes, and charred oak. There is a real rich woodiness present here. Loads of wood too – sandalwood, rosewood, and oak. The palate is loaded with strawberry jam, astringent oak, wood charcoal, chocolate malt, cacao, and pear. It’s still very woody, to great effect. The finish has lightly roasted grain and a light astringency.  

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is another great example of an American single malt – it’s unique and tasty, full of oak and grain.

Value: Low. You can certainly get better value products in the American market, or the Scottish market, for the price. However, it is on the cheaper and better side of American single malts.