Bourbon

Review: Michter's Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Michter 2.jpg
ABV
45.7%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
N/A
Producer Michter's (Kentucky)

There is a lot of “lore” about Michter’s products, but they are a producer that has been sourcing whisky for a long time and not distilling their own, but sourcing from other Kentucky distillers. They are marketed pretty well. (“truly small batch”….hmm….)

However, they are now building a distillery to produce their own stuff.

I’ve always resisted actually buying it since it’s so expensive, but I’ve been curious and the lack of bourbon in Ontario has me exploring things I normally wouldn’t.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Lot no. 21E1403

  • Bottling Code: LL/IC270901

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose is nutty, with hazlenuts, candied pecans, almond, smoking oak wood, sweet corn, baking spice, and a really nice floral rye edge. The palate continues to be nutty, but it doesn’t have the broader, rich flavour profile of many bourbons – it is cleaner and more focused. I imagine a lot of people would describe it as “smoother”. For me, it’s not necessarily how I like my bourbon – I like a good punch of oak, spice, and grain. Nonetheless, this does go down very smoothly! The balance between the grains is terrific. There is a light umami characteristic to it also – nice. The finish is spicy, stone-fruity, and full of corn.

This is very well crafted – balanced and with a nice array of flavours. However, I still find the richness here to be a bit light compared to the sweetness. This, to me, fits in the category of a premium “casual” bourbon as opposed to a premium “tasting” bourbon – at least for how I enjoy them.

Value: Not great for a bourbon, compared to other great finds at half the price. If you are comparing to Scotch, it sits in the average category. It’s $90 in Ontario where I reside.

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

Value: Not great for a bourbon, compared to other great finds at half the price. If you are comparing to Scotch, it sits in the average category. It’s $90 in Ontario where I reside.


Review: Old Tub Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Striaght Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Old Tub 2.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
4 years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This whisky is bottled-in-bond, which means it was distilled in a single season and aged for at least four years. To boot, this one has not been carbon- or chill-filtered, which means that the whisky should have loads of texture. This is a relatively recent release, even though it borrows the same name as a much older jim beam brand.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose is so classically Jim Beam - that nutty, savoury character complemented by rich and oily corn, a bit of spice, dried apricot, rich oak, cumin, and good grainy notes. It really does come on full force with that funky, foxy Jim Beam character - and it is obviously a bit young and untamed, but it makes up for this with ample richness. It is rich and thick in the mouth. The palate is sweet, oaky, and full of really nice corn notes. The finish is creamy, sweet, and deep. The proof really helps here.

It’s getting harder and harder to find decent bourbons for a reasonable price in Canada, and here is one that is for sure a worthwhile buy.

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

Value: High at $45.


Review: Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Four Roses 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
A blend of 10 bourbon recipes produced at Four Roses
Distiller Four Roses (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This is the base bourbon offered by Four Roses, a distillery who recently has won accolade upon accolade and is producing some of the finest bourbon available. Four Roses is an interesting distillery in that they utilize ten different recipes in their bourbon production. They have 5 different yeast types, and 2 different mashbills (recipes) which together yield 10 different recipes, all distilled and aged separately. This bottle is a blend of all 10 of these recipes, so complexity is expected.

So where did all this yeast come from? Most distilleries don’t use more than one type of yeast, and very rarely more than two. Originally, Four Roses was owned by Seagrams and the yeasts were split across 5 locations to produce different products for blending – in more of a Canadian style. However, we should be thankful, because when Kirin bought the company from Seagrams the yeasts were continued and the bad Seagram’s products coming out of the distillery were not continued. And, now, arguably, they are producing the best bourbon on the planet.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Very pleasant, light, and fruity – apples, cherries, peaches, and green grapes with a vanilla richness and a rye rumble in the background (which, at times, is a bit off-balance and bitter). Oak is ever so slightly present, providing a bit of a dry sensation to the nose, and I find this emerges more over time alongside an increasing weight of corn. I also find an interesting, almost sweet vermouth-like herbal quality to the nose. Well done.

Taste: Slightly sour, initially. It has a nice body which leads into a corn and oak flourish as the flavor fades into the slightly sour and spicy finish which includes a very light touch of smoke. At times, the corn combined with the light sourness provide for a slightly off-key effect, but otherwise there isn’t much wrong with this. It’s not very sweet, but the sweetness is matched very well to the body – which, combined with the nice feel of this whisky, is quite nice.

Finish: Cayenne pepper and cinnamon fade until we are left with light, buttery vanilla and a touch of oak, apple, and vanilla-tinged almond. It has a slight tartness and sweetness which are quite engaging, and the oak tannins provide nice feel.

My go-to for a budget bourbon based on what is present in Ontario (though Devil’s Cut is also not a bad one – but can be hard to find in Ontario). I like it especially for mixing – it’s soft and complex to go well in cocktails. The bright fruitiness and the play with the tartness and the spice also allow this to be decent as a casual sipper.

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

Value: High, based on $27.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 1507066201201

  • Bottling Date: 2019

As with many four roses, the nose shows exceptional complexity for a bourbon which often are about big, strong flavours rather than subtle ones. It isn’t hard to get lots on the nose - golden delicious apple, dried apricot, marmalade, apricot jam, corn husks, baking spice, green grape, charred oak, pear, and vanilla. There is a touch of youthful oiliness, and, with many younger whiskies, this softens as the whisky airs out. The nose improves with time. The graininess really shines with time – it is nice.

The palate starts sweet, then a lot unfolds quickly – mixed dried fruit, fresh pear, Asian pear, sweet corn, hazlenuts, and a mix of oak and dried apricot on the end. Baking spices build on the finish, with vanilla lingering and slight tannins.

It’s layered, and complex. It is still a bit youthful…but it’s about as good as you can do for bourbon at this price.

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

Value: High at $31. About as good as you can do for a bourbon at this price.


Review: North of 7 Three Grain Canadian Whisky ("Trad") by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
45%
Aging
~5 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
70% Corn, 25% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

This whisky was filled into a barrel at 57% in March 2015, and bottled in November 2020, so about 5.7 years of age. I was able to taste it at cask strength in November as part of a private barrel selection, and it was my second favourite barrel of the ten we tasted so I’ve been waiting for it to come out.

Unlike most of North of 7 virgin oak casks, which are heavily toasted and lightly charred, this one is heavily charred which lines it up closely by recipe and by cask to the most popular bourbon brands.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 14

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

Quite different in profile to North of 7s other products, but still very rich in both oak and grain character. Caramel, corn husks, baking spice, oaky astringency (slight), dill, stewed peaches, vanilla, coconut, charred oak, fennel seed, dried hibiscus, lemon peel, and some lilac. The palate follows, starting out with loads of rye flavour before some rich corn character, breadiness, and milk chocolate emerge in the middle and the finish is full of spices – baking spices, dried chilli, milk chocolate, dried apricot. The chilli is great. Very nice finish.

Definitely mature whisky, this – reminiscent of some rye-heavy bourbons like four roses single barrel, but altogether different with a sharper oak character and not as much corn coming through.

I tasted it a few months ago and it’s come along further since then. To my recollection, this is only the second “trad” that they’ve released but the recipe shows a lot of potential. I’ll be looking forward to the later barrels.

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

Value: high at $60


Review: Forty Creek Double Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Forty Creek Double Barrel 2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of rye, corn, and barley whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This whisky was originally a special release of Forty Creek, but is now a part of their regular line. Every year John Hall, the whisky maker, drives down to Kentucky to hand-pick the bourbon barrels that go into this whisky – and he doesn’t accept just any old cask – it must match the profile he wants. In the style of forty creek whiskies, the barley, rye, and corn are distilled and aged separately in different casks, and then married together and combined into a bourbon barrel. The bourbon barrels are sourced from a number of different distilleries in Kentucky (not necessarily Wild Turkey which is also owned by Campari).


Review (2013)

  • Batch: Lot 240

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: It’s forty creek with a bourbon edge! there is the Forty Creek signature toasted oak, alongside bourbon aromas of earthy corn, dried apricot, and caramel. Honey and rye comes through very nicely, as well. A nice graininess comes through as well, reminding me of white flour and oats, and, interestingly, hot green pepper.

Taste: The bourbon flavours make up the base to this one, upon which sit rye, toasted oak, vanilla, a slight sweetness, and cinnamon, a touch of clove, and warm spiciness. There are some dried fruits as well – raisins, prunes, and dried apricots. The toasted oak and wonderful subtle sweetness and spiciness is still present, and is wonderful. There are some strawberry notes too.

Finish: Dried fruits slowly fade to a slightly dry spiciness and oakiness. Nice mouthfeel as well, with the whisky coating the inside of the mouth and slowly breaking down as well.

The bourbon cask wonderfully complements the forty creek style, and the style is still very much present – the cask does not overwhelm it at all. However, it’s not as deep or as rich as some of the other releases (and I find the price point a little difficult when it’s so much cheaper to go with copper pot or barrel select, which are both fabulous whiskies).

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

Value: Average. About par for the course for a whisky like this, in terms of value ($60).


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Lot 258

  • Bottling Code: 4G\DII5313 09:38:29

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is interesting and complex with vanilla, caramel, milk chocolate, vanilla, almonds and fresh oak with a bit of a chemical solvent-like backdrop. Some beautiful bourbon casks here. On the palate, the oily youth of the spirit comes through, though the backdrop is quite good. The grains, the spices, the wood, are all nicely balanced but just need a bit more time together - the whisky is brimming with potential but for a bit more time in the barrel.

Value: Average. This batch is sub-par, but it isn’t terribly expensive either in whisky terms (60$) and competes with a lot of Scotch whiskies at this price level (granted, Scotch is the worst bang for your buck in whisky).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Lot 256

  • Bottling Code: 27J14 13:10:16

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

A dominant, clear, first impression of toffee - also creamy and lightly earthy, with nutty notes, the classic Forty Creek toasted oak, maple, cacao - complex and full on the palate but still showing too much youth on the corn whisky in this batch for me. Otherwise, well integrated and very delicious, with some fabulous spice in the mix too. The finish is creamy, and full – very nice.

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

Value: Average. About par for the course for a whisky like this, in terms of value. ($60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Dry and spicy, with coconut, clove, prune, toasted oak, and a rich underlying grain character. The palate has a rich, oily base which carries lots of toffee, dried apples, and a variety of classic baking spices and brown sugar. Nicely distillate driven, but still too raw and young. I do like the classic Forty Creek characteristic which comes through – the toasted oak, yet it is different than the other expressions (nicely so).

Value: Average. This batch is sub-par, but it isn’t terribly expensive either in whisky terms (60$) and competes with a lot of Scotch whiskies at this price level (granted, Scotch is the worst bang for your buck in whisky).


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Lot 272

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This has recently changed bottles, now looking more like the core bottles (e.g. barrel select) than the special releases – and, with that, a good drop in price too. The label says “finished in once mellowed American bourbon barrels” – a bit too much branding for me that leads to more questions. But I think the price point is now in line with what I would expect.

I think I’m starting to understand where this fits – my reference for it used to be the special releases but now it’s closer to the basic lineup. The bourbon character comes through here, clearly, and results in a softer Forty Creek experience compared to copper pot. It is quite nutty and oily, with the nuttiness and oiliness of a bourbon cask adding to the character in Forty Creek. We also have vanilla, mixed dried fruit, hazelnut, and orange peel. The finish has a light wine character – fruit and I find the profile quite similar to that of previous years – this one, perhaps, with a bit more bourbon character. I still get a wine character at the end of the whisky.

I originally found that this bottle was a bigger outlier compared to the other Forty Creek characteristics, but, now, it is quite aligned in my view to the special releases character. This is one of the better batches that I’ve had in the past number of years.

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

Value: Average, at $40.