Kentucky

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

IMG_3640.JPG
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: 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.


Review: Blanton's Original Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46.5%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 15% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Blanton's is aged for about 9 years, in warehouse H at Buffalo Trace the only metal cladded warehouse there. It is made from the same corn, rye, and maltmash bill as Elmer T. Lee and Ancient Age, and is a hand bottled product from a single barrel. It is one of my favorite, if not my favorite whisky bottle - with collectible bottle stoppers which each contain a letter of Blanton's. It was launched in 1984, with great success, by master distiller Elmer T. Lee as the first single barrel bourbon in modern production. The whiskey comes off the still at 70%, dumped into the barrels at 62.5%, and uses a 6 month seasoning (air drying) on the staves before they were put into the barrels.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Barrel 90; Warehouse H; Rick no. 26; Dumped 10.15.13

  • Bottling Code: B1329016:52J

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Quite the nose, bursting with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and pomegranate, alongside oak and an impressive light oily quality which is well integrated within. Now we have lime zest too on the nose. On the palate, loaded with kombucha, and all sorts of tea notes - blueberry tea, raspberry tea, black tea, before resting on the fruity notes. Oily, as well, in the best sense of the word. Kombucha on the finish, with chili spice, and great complexity throughout - showing great bourbon without being a spirit smothered by corn or oak - we, perhaps, don't see this enough. A favorite bourbon of mine.

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

Value: High, based on $65. A good barrel of this edges it into the high value category at $65.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Barrel 327; Warehouse H; Rick no. 33; Dumped 12.31.15

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A friend of mine said this was his favorite Blanton’s ever and sent me a sample. I never turn down trying more of my favorite bourbon brand!

Terrific nose, which develops beautifully too. A brilliant mix of rye, floral notes, tea, oak, corn, pomegranate, orange zest, spice cake, and corn which shines through on this one. The palate is full of spice, corn stalks, and toffee with tingly pepper. A nice finish with dried berries, corn husks, caramel, and black tea. Another terrific blanton’s.

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

Value: High, based on $65. A good barrel of this edges it into the high value category at $65.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Barrel 1467; Warehouse H; Rick no. 21; Dumped 2.5.18

  • Bottling Code: L18037011646J

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Fruity and spicy – dried rose, hibiscus, fennel seed, dried apricot and dried peach. Strawberry. What can I say, typical Blanton’s! It’s a bit more harsh and less rounded than most of the Blanton’s I’ve had. It’s sharp and oaky on the palate, with nice dried fruit coming in. Finish continues – dried fruit (more peach than usual), lots of rye spice, and rich sweet oak.

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

Value: Average, based on $70.


Review: Stagg Junior Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
63%+
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Stagg Junior was released in 2013 partially to satisfy many consumers who wanted to try the George T. Stagg bourbon, a whiskey usually about 17 years old and bottled unfiltered and at barrel proof part of the esteemed and rare Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. This whisky is aged 8-9 years, and, similarly, is from the same recipe (also the recipe of Buffalo Trace) and is cask strength and unfiltered. It comes out in batches, and, thus, the alcohol percentage and flavour vary from batch to batch. As the whiskey is younger, has high production, and is released multiple times per year, Buffalo Trace hopes this is a more accessible whiskey in the mold of George T. Stagg.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A (66.05%)

  • Bottling Code: B14 191 0957N

  • Bottling Date: 2014

There’s a good dose of earthy oak, caramel, black tea, lots of white grape (the fruit really lifts up the whole nose), honey, a bit of marsh that’s drying out in the fall (or another season, I suppose…), and lots of dried apricot. I love the earthiness of the oak. The palate is sweet with a lot of black tea, candied orange, and some sharp spices – a mixed bag of old stale cloves and peppercorns. Still a bit sweet with almost a raisin-y type sweetness to it. Fades to tannins, oak, and dried apple.

Even if you water it down to 40% you still get quite a nice bourbon. But, much better at cask strength – though watered to 58-60% might be my sweet spot for this bourbon.

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

Value: Average (based on $85).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 10 (63.2%)

  • Bottling Code: L180860118:557 REF IA 5C VT 15C

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lowest proof to date for a stagg jr!

Very fruity! Cherries, mulberries, white grape, a light floral note and lots of spice – clove and ground cinnamon (i.e. more on the spicy than the woody side). The palate is big with dried fruit and a rich oiliness – full of that buffalo trace rye note you see clearly in the standard buffalo trace bottling – but it’s much bigger and richer here. Amazing fruity notes – raspberry jam, hibiscus, cherry, strawberry, but alongside the oily corn, oak, and spice you’d expect. The finish is drying, with lots of dried stone fruit (notably cherry), oak, caramel, and tannin.

A definite improvement on the initial stagg jr. which didn’t make me jump to buy more of them. This is much better.

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

Value: Average (based on $85).


Review: Wild Turkey Rare Breed Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
54.1%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~51% Rye, 37% Corn, 21% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This whiskey is a near barrel proof bourbon, bottled at 54.1%, from Wild Turkey. It was originally released in 1991, and is a mix of bourbons 6-12 years old.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: The first thing I notice are almonds and caramel. Orange, allspice, dried apricot, peppers, light smoky ash, very light vanilla, and a bit of sourness to it as well. Oak drifts in and out, and the corn is present, along with a some good malt, and some notes that remind me of white flour. Interestingly, I also get a kidney bean note! There’s a bit of dense spiciness with a thread of bitterness which I find doesn’t really fit in too well with the rest of the whiskey. A bit of earthy, marshy notes as well – which seem to be coming alongside the corn. It’s complex, with a lot going on, but I don’t find it particularly elegant or balanced.

Taste: The rye comes in quite nicely on the palate, alongside the corn – it’s quite a big whiskey. Leather, tobacco, rye spice, caramel, pineapple, and a bit of orange. It finishes with some spices, including anise. A bit of detracting bitterness I think. This is good, and interesting, but not spectacular.

Finish: Anise, marzipan, and caramel…it’s a bit dry, with a tiny bit of bitterness and sweetness. Some of those marshy earthy notes too, which I suppose is the earthiness of the corn coming through, and even some earthy-mushroom notes.

Value: Average, at $68.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2015/09/17 14:11 LJ10946

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Rich...this is full of coconut, vanilla, oak, and fruit – plums, apricot, prunes, and dried peaches. It has a nice grainy character, with a nice earthiness and farm-like character to it. The palate balances the fruit, sweetness, and a light grain character. I’m enjoying this much more than the last batch of rare breed that I had - perhaps I got it wrong last time (it was just a small sample in 2015) or it’s actually better. The finish has fennel seed, oak, plum, and dried corn.

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

Value: Average, at $61.


Review: Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Rittenhouse.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
>4 yrs
Recipe
51% rye, 37% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Rittenhouse is a brand produced by Heaven Hill, the largest family-owned beverage alcohol producer in the USA and the second largest bourbon producer after Jim Beam. This rye whiskey has been around for some time, as one of the best deals (perhaps the best) in terms of price and quality for a straight rye. This whiskey is bottled in bond, a labeling measure which was put in place in 1897 in order to protect the quality of good whiskey. To put “bottled in bond” on the label, the whiskey has to be the product of one distillation season, produced by a single distillery, aged in a federally bonded warehouse under US Government supervision for at least 4 years, and bottled at 50% ABV (or 100 American proof). These restrictions are stricter than those for Bourbon (produced in US, use new oak barrels, distilled to no more than 80% ABV, and put in the cask at 62.5%, bottled at at least 40%, with the age written on the label if it is less than 4 years old) and Straight Bourbon (minimum age 2 years without colouring or flavouring added). Thus, to an extent, it is a bit stricter of a labelling regulation.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Fresh oak and floral, candied rye in great measure, orange peel, along with some honey, and anise. Quite an expressive nose – not difficult at all to smell with your nose quite a bit away from the glass. However, if you search deeper, you find tannins and some bitterness which is too much. Thankfully, with time this is a less significant factor as the aroma develops. Caramel and vanilla come out in time, and some funky farmy earthiness with the honey and oak continuing to grow. The beginning of the nose isn’t that great, but as you get used to it and it develops it really starts to come out wonderfully.

Taste: A good dosage of rye coming through, with the oak counterbalancing and eventually winning out. There’s a lot of honey, and still has the heaven hill style in the mix of it. As I’ve said before, one great thing about visiting distilleries is getting into the barrel houses with the smells – and this reminds me of that Heaven Hill characteristic. The guy who was giving us the tour told us at the time that if Buffalo Trace barreled their bourbon there, it would taste like Heaven Hill, and likewise, if Heaven Hill barreled their bourbon at Buffalo Trace, it would taste like Buffalo Trace. The grain comes through nicely, too – rich and buttery, and the corn seems to come through on the end. Delicious stuff. Spicy on the end, too. Really – a quite fabulous integration of complex grains, oak, and spice.

Finish: after the intensity of the palate, the oak takes the reins and slows the whole thing down leaving you into slow, sweet oak and honey with some spiciness in the mix too and some apples. anise, once again.

This is so popular, and with such great demand, a worker at Heaven Hill told me that they actually sell this stuff at a loss in order to keep the brand profile high until some of the other prices rise. This is great stuff, and terrific value especially in the states – as with most Heaven Hill products, in fact. I am quite a fan of them (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig 12, Larceny, Parker’s Heritage Collection Promise of Hope)

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

Value: Very high, at $47.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B35L6

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Oak, slightly nutty, vanilla, dried fruit, dry candy icing, solidified bacon fat – lots of spices (unsurprisingly). A really rich, spicy product – still with a nice light sweetness and a touch of mint. A corn sweetness grows in the glass. The palate is really nice  - rich with a great balance of oak, sweet, and spice. The corn really comes out on the palate, more than the nose – rich grainy body, yet the spicy rye is there with clove, tea, brown cardamom, and rye bread. The finish is slightly sweet, slightly tangy, full of light oak and more spice. Cinnamon, brown sugar, and light menthol.

I was writing more but I realized it was so much a duplication of the above review and there is no need! I don’t know if I would say that it is a better whisky than it’s older sibling Pikesville, but I like it better. It’s a nice distillate, and I like it with this amount of oak – Pikesville is a bit more oaky. The tanginess here is just perfect.

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

Value: Very high, at $47.


Review: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.jpg
ABV
45.2%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak (twice)
Recipe
~72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Woodford Reserve (Versailles, Kentucky)

Woodford Reserve has a cooperage on site, and when I was at the distillery in 2014 they had just released this whisky and it was sold out everywhere. It is a combination of two types of casks – a heavily charred lightly toasted barrel and also a lightly charred but heavily toasted barrel which the whisky is matured for 9 months in, bringing out all sorts of oaky notes.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L300611542

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A rich, oaky, caramel-laden nose. Decadent caramel, apples, pear, cucumber, marmelade, plum jam, burnt toast, and hazlenut. It is interesting to taste woodford – because it is pot distilled, it is a lot narrower and in some senses cleaner than the typical column distilled bourbons, which means the grain comes out completely different – sharp, clean, and spicy. The oak is massive – if there was an oak centre of the brain, this would fry the circuits. The palate is full of charred oak, plum jam, caramel, smoke, and lots of spice – with lots of tannins, too. Oaky, and heavy. The palate, as they say, is going to oak – but this is a lot of oak – too much for me. It’s not that I don’t like it (I do, and I like tannic whiskies...), but I feel it doesn’t quite compete on the stage that other bourbons do. The finish is full of spice, dense fruit jam, charred oak, and tannins. Quite creamy, and it opens up as the bottle stays open.

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

Value: Average, at $72.