Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Review: Maker's Mark 101 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
50.5%
Aging
New Charred Oak
Recipe
70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky)

The founder of Maker’s Mark, Bill Samuels Senior, always liked the flavors released at 101 proof in Maker’s Mark bourbon. He would set it aside for special occasions. The distillery, in turn, offered this whisky to guests who visited Maker’s Mark – but now, they’ve put forward a broader release. I’ve always liked Maker’s at higher proofs – Maker’s 46 (granted, it’s a bit different in profile) and the cask strength releases.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L1123MMB 06231 1041

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

Maker’s Mark, through and through here – bright fruit (dried apricot, cherry, plum), corn, toffee, and all sorts of dessert-like characteristics. It’s quite sweet – the caramel just booms on the nose. Very nice, refined grain notes in the background….the palate follows – relatively soft for a 50% bourbon – rich and with a great mouthfeel. The finish jumps up with some berries, toffee, and sweet oak before fading into spices.

Pretty much what you’d expect for a higher proof Maker’s – all the core characteristics, concentrated a bit more. Perhaps, not as hot as you might expect given the jump in ABV.

A bit pricy at $100! I suppose, relative to where bourbon has been – on a quality basis against Scotch, this would be par for the course.

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

Value: Average at $100. There are certainly better buys in bourbon, but this isn’t disappointing either against whisky in general.


Review: Russell's Reserve 10 Year's Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Russell's Reserve 10 2.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

I go back and forth on how much I like Wild Turkey. While they have some fantastic offerings at the higher levels, and their 101 and rare breeds have their charm - sometimes their products miss the mark for me. But, I can’t resist good bourbon….this represents one of the older and more refined regular bottles coming from Wild Turkey.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: LL/IC270901

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose seems to showcase malt quite clearly. Green apple, pears, brown sugar, rich oak, heirloom corn grits, caramel, and a really nice set of baking spices and oiliness. There is a thick, rich, oaky sweetness on the nose. The nose also reminds me of freshly cracked hazlenuts – we used to have a tree. The palate seems to brings forth more dried fruit (apricots, prunes) and the richness of the oak and the spices remain at the core. The oak is slightly bitter on the palate. The finish has dried orange peel, dried apricot, baking spices, and a bit of tobacco.

I like this – it is definitely more refined than the younger versions (which have a roughness that give them some appeal). Pretty good for the price – these days at least.

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

Value: high at $55.


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.