Kentucky Straight Bourbon

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: 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.


Review: 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

1792 Full Proof.jpg
ABV
62.5%
Aging
8.5 yrs; New Charred Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 15% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Barton (Bardstown, Kentucky)

As the industry listens to what bourbon fans want, we are continuing to see barrel proof versions of standard bourbons, like this 1792 (though this is a limited release, and not quite barrel proof).

The LCBO, classically, did their own testing of this bourbon when it came in and restamped all the bottles with 61.87% rather than the 62.5% advertised on the label (the ABV at which the liquid goes into the barrel). 8 and a half years old.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code:K16205 21:47 05

  • Botting Date: 2016

The nose has maple, dried apricot, prune, cinnamon, oak, cherry, pear,  menthol, and vanilla sugar. Rich, and dense – really opening up with water. The palate has a nice lacing of oak alongside lots of stone fruit, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and clove. It’s packed with flavor – fruit, oak, and spice. The finish is slightly tannic with a reasonable hit of spice, yet also retaining a dark fruit character and rich coconut. The complexity didn’t come out the way I hoped it would, given how I enjoy 1792. An enjoyable, high proof, modern bourbon.

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

Value: High, based on $65. According to my numerical scores that I assign, this is at the upper end of average. But good cask strength bourbons are pretty rare for these prices, so I bumped it up.


Review: Basil Hayden's Dark Rye by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of Beam Rye, Alberta Rye, and Port
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky) and Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

The second bottle to be added to the Basil Hayden’s brand, one of Jim Beam’s core „small batch” brands. Beam Suntory started to leverage its Canadian distillery, the magnificent Alberta rye distillery, using it as a secondary component to blend in with Jim Beam’s rye whiskey. On top of this, port is added to the blend to round it out. In some respects, it’s similar to Alberta Dark Rye (Dark Horse in Canada) in that a fortified wine is added to a rye whiskey. The addition of wine to the whiskey is scientifically equivalent to a short (i.e. a few months) of a finish where wood impact doesn’t mature the whiskey but the wine is just dissolved into the spirit. So, it’s not much different than a port finish, depending on the amount of port actually added. The Alberta ryes taste nothing like Beam rye, so let’s test out the combo!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose starts off with sweet oak, rich and shallow caramel (think of that super sweet caramel donut or straight cheap caramel ice cream sauce), green apple candy,  oaky earthiness, mint, bright and rich grain, clove, pepper, butter...hmmm....

The palate is sweet throughout, starting with a sharp kick of rye but with lots of sweet oak and a strong touch of nutty port rancio. Slightly rough around the edges, too. The finish is perhaps the best part of the whisky, with a combination of spicy rye, oak, and port. Lots of rich dried fruit, like prune, on the finish too. It’s rough underneath, and I suppose you could imagine balance, but barely, and there isn’t good integration.

I don’t even like to nose this one, all candy, and not in a good way. Ice marginally improves this, but not enough. One of the worst whiskies from a major producer in some time. For some who like sweet and flavoured whiskies, they may not mind this. But, for most of us, there’s better places to find „uniqueness”.

Value: Low. Not a whisky up my alley, which means it’s a lot to pay for it.


Review: Four Roses Private Selection Single Barrel (OESQ) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Four Roses OESQ 2.jpg
ABV
61.1%
Aging
9 years, 1 months; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller Four Roses (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

Some of the best bourbon I’ve ever had was a set of Four Roses single barrels from 2013 and 2014, all around 11-12 years. They can still be found without too much difficulty, but the ones I’ve seen have dropped a few years in age, sadly, since they were about perfect at 11-12 years


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Warehouse S (North), Rick 4, 5th level, Barrel Q

  • Bottling Code: 150213016 1238

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Prunes, dried roses, rich corn, fruity rye, grape soda, light earthiness. Vanilla, toasted oak, and rich dulce de leche grow with time. The palate has good bite with white grape, spicy tobacco, oak, and potpourri. A slight let-down after the nose. Rosehips and oak on the finish. A nice bourbon, and very enjoyable at 61.1%, but lacks complexity and balance to merit the high marks I’ve given these single barrels in the past.

 

Not as floral as I expected, but I guess I’ve been having whiskies like Collingwood Double Oaked recently, which is floral off the charts. But, it’s a single cask, so I’d like to see a stellar cask using this yeast.

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

Value: Low (based on $125)


Review: Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Old Forester Prohibition 1.jpg
ABV
57.5%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Brown Forman (Louisville, Kentucky)

I’ve kept hearing so many good things about this one, I had to try it. Old Forester is distilled in a bourbon distillery in Louisville, and owned by Brown Forman who also own Jack Daniels (and Canadian Mist)....It is part of a series of special releases from Brown Forman which celebrate different periods of history in their „Whisky Row” series. This bottle commemorates prohibition, though it doesn’t appear there is much specific to prohibition about the bottle beyond being a typical proof which a bourbon might have come out of the barrel during prohibition (though it would have been required to be bottled at 50% rather than the 57.5% it came out of the bottle at). Brown Forman doesn’t usually bottle high proof bourbons, so it’s nice to see, too...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L055711251

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

Quite a vibrant bourbon on the nose. Loads of cherry, pineapple, and rich dark caramel – but also orange, and a nice set of spices – vanilla, oak, a bit of nutmeg, dried mixed mushrooms, macadamias, tea biscuits, and something qiute woody – gentian, perhaps. A light citric lift, too. The palate is spicy, driven by the oak and corn. Some nice light rye, supporting, with some slight vegetal and sharp spicy undertones. It does well with water, but is very nicely rich at full strength.Rich, sweet finish with brown sugar, oatmeal, and lots of earthy marshy notes and some brown sugar. The earthy, marshy, oaky notes are so nice combined with the dried horn cusk notes and the brown sugar.

It really doesn’t come across as 57.5%, which is a plus – it tastes very rich but not hot (granted, I’ve enjoyed 80% ABV whiskies without trouble...). It’s reminding me of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, though this is not nearly as woody – but has a similar, extremely rich profile but the distillate and the oak are in much better balance here.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but this makes a great highball. I'm not really a bourbon highball sort of guy, but it works really well between the citrus notes, the fruit, and the creamy notes. Worth a try (or two....)!

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

Value: Average, based on $105.


Review: Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

wild turkey 101 2.jpg
ABV
50.5%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This whisky is matured 6-8 years, distilled to a low proof, and put in the high char barrels at low proof - often, the whisky comes out at around 109 proof - so this is nearly cask strength. Jimmy Russel, now the longest active master distiller in Kentucky has always been insistent on powerful and flavorful bourbons. This was off the market for a while and it is back - it is a favorite of many.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 214B20713 LL E 1280700

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

Honey, prune, clove, corn, sharp green lettuce (with those terrific earthy notes), hazlenuts,  caramel, roasted apricots, and a light harshness – though not from immaturity. The palate is big, full of vanilla, mixed roasted nuts, and rye – both spicy and floral – underneath the whole thing. The finish has pineapple, earthy oak, tobacco, and lots of grain notes. The grain notes, in fact, are very present in quite raw form throughout the bourbon – it has more of a broad and flavorful grain profile than many Kentucky bourbons (similar to other Wild Turkey products) – perhaps a product of the low percent off the still. Cinnamon, rye, and pumperknickel linger on the finish.

I think this is my favorite Wild Turkey, limited editions excluded. It’s a brand I expect could grow on me, if I drank it more.

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

Value: High, at $38.


Review: William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

WL Weller.jpg
ABV
67.3%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak; 12 Yrs
Recipe
~70% Corn; 16% Wheat; 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This is about as big as you can get with a wheated bourbon - cask strength, oaky, and nearly 70%. Consistently terrific.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2015 (67.3%)

  • Bottling Code: B152301238K

  • Bottling Date: 2015

This is woody! Lots of char and caramel on the nose - a bit of a reatrained nose, at first - even diluted. Creamy, candied, spicy....fennel root, stewed apples, caramelized vegetables, tobacco, oily, candle wax - quite dark, really. Very lightly floral - like light jasmine - I was expecting something in the Weller 12 category but this is quite different...

The palate is thick, sweet, and incredibly earthy - the mossy oak sort of earthiness - i love this bit. A touch of dill, and full of rich toffee and old, leathery dried apricot. The finish has a bit of mint and loads of creamy caramel and dried apricot and stewed prune. Huge, sweet, finish. Really earthy - oaky, 

It's one that begs me to be slipped slow and savour - it is nice when the whisky you are tasting takes the reins. Really nice. 

I prefer it with a bit of water in it to the mid-high 50 percent range. More complexity is revealed 

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: High (based on $130)