Kentucky Straight 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: Baker's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Baker's 2.jpg
ABV
53.5%
Aging
7 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

For whatever reason, this bourbon is the one which I seem to hear about the least of the bourbons in the Jim Beam small batch collection. It’s odd, perhaps, because it is a solid bourbon, and the price is good. It comes in at 53.5%, is aged 7 years, and is fairly available. Each bottle has a batch number on it – this reviewed batch is B-90-001.

The bourbon itself is named after Baker Beam, the grand nephew of Jim Beam, and was his creation supposedly - though people working at Beam said that Booker just needed a name for a whisky he wanted to release. The mashbill has about 15% rye in it, with the rest being filled out mostly with corn. This mashbill is the same as for most Jim Beam bourbons – White Label, Black Label, Knob Creek, and Booker’s.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: B-90-001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Now there’s a nose! Rich, with caramel, spice, dried apricot, chocolate, and dried corn – and it develops nicely as the richness unfolds to custard, vanilla, and light pepper and smoke. It is well integrated all around and very enjoyable to unpack.

Taste: Sweet and very rich. Corn, oak, dried fruits, and vanilla – slowly evolving to some rich corn and earthiness with the thick body and tannins all working to create the body around those flavours. It is a “slow” palate as I would say – there is good movement, and the flavour keeps developing and changing as it is in your mouth. The thickness/body you can immediately recognize from the first pour, and you certainly feel it on the palate. I find the alcohol (53.5%) to be just about right to sip – I have experimented with water but I prefer this one at full strength.

Finish: A nice big finish, with spice, rich corn, caramel, chocolate and oak. The body, length, and even acidity are all well balanced. A wonderful blend of corn and oak on this finish.

This is a really nice bourbon. It doesn’t seem that hot, betraying the fact that it comes in at 53.5%. I like this one even more than Booker’s, generally! I quite like the richness, and it isn’t a spice bomb but it is well balanced and deep.

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

Value: Very high. At 65$ CAD, when I got this, it was a very solid buy against other tastes in this price range.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: I suppose they are all B-90-001

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

I always liked Baker’s quite a bit – perhaps the best of the Jim Beam small batch collection, other than, perhaps, Booker’s (depending on the batch). But, it’s been some time and the price has (sadly) jumped up significantly enough that I don’t buy this one very often anymore. It is also getting somewhat difficult to find in my neck of the woods.

 Herbal, nutty, and rich on the nose with lots of spices and a good dose of dried fruit, caramel, and almond. The palate is rich and fruity, with a good dose of oak and a nice oiliness. The fruity character works so well with the nuts, the baking spice, and the oak. It has a really great depth to it, and isn’t as hot as a lot of other Beam’s (even the nicer ones) at 53.5%. The finish is full of spice and oak.

It's nice, but not as nice as the last batch. For whatever reason, I thought that was absolutely terrific. This is just very good.

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

Value: Average, at $80.


Review: Bulleit Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Bulleit for the picture.

Thanks to Bulleit for the picture.

ABV
59.5%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~68% Corn, 28% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Producer Bulleit (Louisville, Kentucky)

Bulleit entered the barrel proof market this year, with this being offered at the respectable 59.5%, though varying generally from 120-125 proof. They decided to do this to add to their line, rather than to explore finishes. I’d take a barrel proof over a finished bourbon, so that’s fine by me! This is still their stuff, with the high rye mashbill and lots of fruit...uncut and non-chill filtered (just like we like it!).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose has oak and lots of cherry, stewed apricot, and some solid hazlenut and walnut. The oak is nice – central but not overpowering. Lots of nuts actually – I am getting some pistachio, sesame, and toasted sunflower. The palate is big, full of more sunflower, oak, dried banana, stewed apricot and cherry. It is very much what you would expect from a cask strength bulleit bourbon – all that same flavour, but bigger and increasingly moreish. The finish has compact spices, dried fruit, and more cherry. I’d buy this...

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

Value: Average, based on $100.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

This here is surprisingly nutty and full bodied with lots of corn, caramel, and bourbon goodness. I’m not getting the intense cherry that I recall from last time. There are some nice mixed dried herbal notes, balanced with creamy oak, jujubes, orange peel, baking spices, and uncooked white rice. Thick and syrupy on the palate, which remains a bit herbal, with mixed roasted nuts, sugar caramel, and oak. There is a really nice herbal, oaky rise towards the finish.

Can I call this a “generic” cask strength bourbon? I don’t mean that in a negative way, but it sits in the middle of the various flavour camps of cask strength bourbons without touching much of the extremes. It is really nice, but a bit empty. I like a bit more body with cask strength bourbons.

I like the initial batch a bit better. But, very good, and hits the spot tonight.

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

Value: Average. For a cask strength bourbon, its pretty good value (it’s hard to compete with Knob Creek single barrel though), but you can still do better.