Sazerac

Review: Mister Sam Tribute Whisky (Sazerac) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Sazerac.

Image courtesy of Sazerac.

ABV
66.9%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
A blend of Canadian and American whiskies
Producer Sazerac

Sazerac, the parent company of Buffalo Trace, has been developing a presence in Canada for some years now particularly with the Royal Canadian and Caribou Crossing brands. Diageo also recently sold a number of Canadian whisky brands, including Seagram’s VO, to Sazerac in 2018. The whiskies, thus far, have been from stock which has been sourced from other distilleries in Canada. However, that is set to change with the construction of the Old Montreal Distillery which started to distill whisky in 2018. Tours are set to begin at the distillery in 2019.

Now, Sazerac is releasing a whisky as a tribute to Sam Bronfman, one of the most ominous and greatest figures in the history of the liquor industry. Bronfman initially came to Canada shortly after his birth, the son of immigrant parents, from an area which is now part of the country of Moldova between Romania and Ukraine. He became involved in the family hotel business, which grew, relatively quickly, into a small empire in Saskatchewan with the income driven more by the bars that the family owned than the hotels.

As the temperance movement grew, Saskatchewan implemented prohibition and closed the bars. The family, in clever response, got a hold of one of the rare licenses to sell medicinal alcohol and started to develop a distribution business without much competition. Medicinal alcohol was an extremely popular “remedy” during prohibition. The company soon got into the distilling business, building the (now closed) LaSalle distillery in Quebec from stills acquired in the US. The LaSalle distillery became known for quantity, which lead to Sam Bronfman’s partnership with the Scottish DCL, a massive producer of Scotch which controlled brands like Johnny Walker, Dewar’s, and Buchanon’s . This partnership, formed in the late 1920s, catapulted Bronfman ahead of Harry Hatch as the head of the biggest whisky empire in Canada. Bronfman also obtained the ever-important Seagram’s line of brands. Among these brands was Seagram’s VO, Bronfman’s drink of choice, diluted with water. With the brands came the company’s namesake, Seagram’s.

The company stockpiled stock and assets through prohibition. Despite supplying the bootlegging business, prohibition was a challenging environment to operate in due to the challenges of the supply chain. The boom of the company came when the American market opened up: Seagram’s took control of the American market. Indeed, in the 1930s three out of five bottles of blended whisky sold in the United States were from Seagram’s. The company’s success accelerated - in 1946 Seagram’s controlled 14 distilleries, 60 warehouses, and 10 bottling plants - putting out 25 million litres a year (Source: The Bronfman’s, Nicholas Faith). To this, the company added the Chivas Regal brand and grew to become the largest liquor company in the world before it’s collapse, out of which arose Daigeo and Pernod Ricard which are now the two largest liquor companies in the world.

“Mister Sam” was not only a remarkable businessman, he was also a master blender with a remarkable understanding of the importance and technique of blending. He taught his sons the “art” of blending and ensured that he and his family could always assess the quality of his brands. To honour the legacy, Sazerac has released a whisky containing a blend of American and Canadian whiskies. It was blended by Drew Mayville, who worked at Seagram’s for 22 years and was the last master blender before the company’s collapse. The whisky is bottled at 66.9% ABV, and will be sold in the United States and Canada for about 250 USD. 1,200 bottles were produced, and the whisky is slated to be an annual release.

If you want to learn more on the subject, there are a number of good books lying about. I recommend The Bronfman’s by Nicholas Faith, Booze, Boats and Billions by C.W. Hunt. De Kergommeaux’s Canadian Whisky gives a nice broad overview as well. To better understand the ever-important context of the time and the ever-important American liquor market, Bourbon Empire by Mitenbuler is a great read too.

If you get a bottle of this, there is a small booklet, containing a history of the Seagram’s company written by Samuel Bronfman for his 80th birthday, …from little acorns…. There are a few great nuggets and it gives a nice picture of pieces of how the organization functioned - highlighting specifically Bronfman’s bullishness about marketing, quality control and his penchant for blending. He often tested the blends personally and interacted with the quality control executives. The company had a library of hundreds of whiskies and 240 different yeasts! As Bronfman wrote, “Nothing is more important in our business than the quality of our products”. He also speaks of how he became convinced that US prohibition would end 5 years before it did, and started to ramp up production and build warehouses to get aged whiskies ready in advance. Even once the US market opened up, he made everyone wait until the US spirits had sufficient maturation in wood: “No matter, I waited. Quality in the bottle, and our reputation for quality, were much more important to me than immediate profits.”

Notably, he also discusses being disturbed when he saw drinking culture grow again after prohibition which lead him to release an advertisement: “We who make whiskey say: ‘Drink Moderately’”.

This whisky is available in the United States (already available) and shortly to Canada: BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2019

  • Bottling Code: L19011331608E

  • Bottling Date: 2019

What a nose! What a nose! I’ll do my best not to be too wordy, but even at first whiff I know that will be difficult.

Sweet oaky caramel, rich deep oak (mossy, old, but very sweet like a damp bourbon warehouse), spicy rye, but it’s balanced with the nicest set of light fruit like white grapes and white mulberries. It is very reminiscent of good, cask strength Buffalo Trace compared to a cask strength blended Canadian whisky with less of a focus on oak. It reminds me, of course, of the Buffalo Trace antique collection.

But, back to the nose. It shines through incredibly with water – it seems to transition from an American style to a bit more of an oaky Canadian style with water (without too much rye). Fruits emerge – candied, dried – but also rich baking spice, fresh strawberries, cherries, praline (hazelnut and almond), dried chanterelle mushrooms, wintergreen, and the corn/rye grain character comes out richly. It has a really nice “dusty” rye characteristic, which I love. The nose really evolves, with more and more dried fruit (prunes, then dried apricots, then dried peaches) with time. This is all tempered by massive oak.

The palate is quite oaky, but surrounded at the edges by rich dried fruits, white pepper, and grapefruit skin (including pith). We also have cherry, dried ginger, dried apricot, dried peach, fresh plum, sweet creamy corn, mixed baking spices, and tobacco. These notes converge into a complex dose of baking spices and creeping tannins. The finish is dry, with toasted baking spices, sweet oak, cherry, dried apricot, corn husks, caramel, and tobacco. The finish is deep and long.

Heavier, oakier, richer, and much deeper than Little Book Chapter 02 (can you believe it?), which has a very different presentation of rye and has a light, vibrant fruit characteristic not present in Mister Sam (similar to the Jim-Beam-owned Alberta-distilled Canadian Club 100% rye). I love that Little Book whisky too.  A better comparison is the William Larue Weller I have in my cabinet from 2015. That one is sweeter, with more almond, maple, and a heavier portrayal of corn – the Weller is a bit lighter, and less complex than this stuff which is focused more on deep fruits, nuts, spice. The Weller, notably, has a bigger finish.  If the Weller is a peach galette with some slivered almonds on top, this is a spiced blackberry+plum+peach cobbler, sprinked with baking spices and baked a deep brown. Some, no doubt, will prefer the style of the Weller. But I like this stuff more.

This is extremely pleasant at 53.5%, the nose is best a bit lower ABV, but it is still awesome for its sheer power at 66.9%. It’s one of the most dynamic whiskies I’ve ever encountered in terms of how it changes with ABV. If you have one of these and find it too hot, just keep adding distilled water until it’s to your taste. The drinking experience does not suffer.

I wonder if Mister Sam would have liked the whisky. His typical tipple was Seagram’s VO, a much lighter whisky rather than this oak bomb. Nonetheless, masterfully blended!

This is in the top 6 whiskies I’ve ever tasted.

Exceptional (4% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Average, even at $250!


Review: Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Caribou Crossing 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Producer Sazerac

You don’t find many single barrel bottlings in Canada, but here is one. In 2010, Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace distillery (among others), set their sights toward Canada and bought 200,000 Canadian whisky barrels from which they produced two products – this bottling, and Royal Canadian Small Batch. It is bottled in Kentucky though the liquid is sourced from an unknown distillery in Canada.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B13 D60 16:37K

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: A grassy, pine-rich nose, with a hint of dry oak and a bit of an oily presence – the woody notes are pretty strong – oak, pine, and cedar. Some vanilla is present as well, with some corn chips, and hints of buttery caramel. Some nuts and spice come through – sharp cinnamon, allspice and pecans. There’s a bit of creamy fruitiness that comes in as well, a bit like some sort of pudding – that is quite nice.

Taste: Nicely loaded with spices (cinnamon and a hint of allspice), while retaining a relatively light profile and good body. There are woody notes of oak, pine, and cedar and also maple syrup. There’s a nice development of rich, oaky vanilla in the middle too, which is quite nice – in fact, without it, the taste might be a bit boring. The mouthfeel is very nice, though, and this does elevate the drinking experience. It seems to start, and end, with wood – in fact, I think it has a bit too much.

Finish: Cinnamon, a bit of a buttery flavour, and it is a bit nutty with some almonds on the end. A bit too much oak bitterness, I think, and quite dry…but it’s reasonably developed and involved.

It is similar in profile to Royal Canadian small batch, and, at least this barrel, in quality. The amount of wood influence in this one seems to be borderline…I am not sure what to think of it. Sometimes, it is too much, and sometimes, it is just heavy. I have also noticed that, as the bottle has been open longer, more prominent creamy and fruity notes than at first.

As they are both Sazerac bottlings from the same stock of acquired Canadian barrels, it is natural to compare this whisky to Royal Canadian Small Batch (RC). On the nose, the bourbon influence seems stronger in RC – I think the RC nose is better, but in Caribou Crossing there are more prominent notes of pine and rum (though those are also present in RC). The mouthfeel in Caribou Crossing is a bit better and it is a bit more “patient”, with the spices developing more slowly and the finish developing longer, with a bit more of a dry character. It’s also more woody, and a bit over the top, at times, I think. RC is also a bit sweeter. Of course, as Caribou Crossing is a a single barrel, the profile will vary slightly from barrel to barrel. Also, all the pine and rum notes make me wonder if at leats some of the Sazerac stock was sourced from Hiram Walker distillery…

Value: Low. Not bad, but not good enough to bump up into a higher category.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A light beauty of a whisky. Rich, lightly creamy corn and slight barnyard aromas, wafts of bourbon, and a bit of a smoky touch on the end which is just brilliant. Well integrated and complex, with some intriguing elements - almonds, some earthy elements, prunes, apples, and, surprisingly, some salt. The grain is lovely here.

After the above review, I compared the two batches head to head, and, indeed - this is a lot better than the last barrel I tasted.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Oak, vanilla, bean sprouts, fresh bread, canned peaches and baking spices on a nose that holds cereal notes in the center. The palate is elegant, complex and sweet, with a great grain and confectionary character on the complex palate.

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

Value: Average - on whisky as a whole. Lower value, in just the Canadian category.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Christmas oranges, oak, celery seed, coconut, a biscuit tin – does the orange ever come out! Buttery, creamy, nutty – this is a great barrel! Nice grainy notes too – like corn husks and a grain silo. The oak, throughout, is rich. Clean and very easy on the palate, with light citrus, vanilla, buttery toffee, bamboo, and a green wood finish which develops into rich spices amidst mixed dried citrus peel.

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

Value: Average - on whisky as a whole. Lower value, in just the Canadian category.


Review: Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Producer Sazerac

This whisky is produced by Sazerac, a large drinks company who are known for innovation and own distilleries like Buffalo Trace and Barton 1792 Distillery (producers of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, Very Old Barton, and more). This bottling, along with Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky, are produced under the supervision of Drew Mayville, the Master Blender at Sazerac. Mayville originally came from Canada, a Waterloo grad who worked at Schenley for a large number of years before moving over to Sazerac. This whisky has been crafted, along with Caribou Crossing, from a very large purchase of Canadian whisky barrels bought a few years ago .

Sazerac was one of the first companies to look to buy whisky that has been distilled and matured in Canada, and then export to the States for bottling and blending. This is a growing trend, with ultra-premium products such as Masterson’s (rye, barley, and wheat whisky), Whistlepig, and new products such as Lock, Stock, and Barrel. As the whisky boom increases, particularly the rye boom, Canada has been noticed as one of the only places with reserve rye whisky in stock, particularly older rye. Though many of the companies, like Masterson’s, which import Canadian rye, craft it toward more of an American style (with bolder flavours and more wood influence), this whisky stands a bit between the softer and subtle style of many Canadian whiskies and the big bold American ryes.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Light and pleasant, with vanilla, light oak influences, pleasant fruity notes of sweet plum, fresh and canned peaches, yellow apple, distinct notes of cherry juice, light bourbon aromas, red grape skins, and some very light ruby port notes as well…along with some grassiness akin to that found in irish pot still whiskey. It’s light, but subtle, and well put together.

Taste: It follows the nose, with light sweetness and fruitiness. There’s light apple, prunes – but not quite as intense as prunes – more like boiled or stewed prunes, with vanilla, very light oaky bourbon notes, light cherry, raisins, and more hints of ruby port. It is nicely balanced, light, and subtle, much like the nose…

Finish: The palate dries out a bit, and there are hints of spice, but the flavour is a bit absent other than some light sweet vanilla with some vague fruitiness – largely in the form of light apples. The body and feel of the finish (i.e. other than flavour and complexity), however, are quite decent.

Score: 82/100

Value: Average.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Granny smith apples in a glass - it's almost hard to get around them! Yet, it’s a bit creamy, too, giving almost a sense of an apple crisp with cream or custard. Behind, there's some oak, spice, and some candied fruit and some threads of smoke. The apples lift off after some time...with some underlying complexity which is quite nice including some spices which almost give the feel of a diluted home-made bitter (licorice, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns). On the palate, some lovely oak fits in the background with some underlying spice and dried berries. Interesting to compare with the tasting notes above- it’s the same, and in many senses these tasting notes convey the same thing in a similar way, though there are some differences – for sure.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Apple juice, clove, oak, plums, and vanilla – an easy whisky, full of vanilla and light spice. Light bourbon notes throughout the palate, mango, with pleasing dried spices. Lots of mango, too. There is a light grain character which is terrifically present, too. Lots of almond on the finish.

In this tasting, it’s oddly a bit like a Crown Royal, with all the bourbon nods and light fruit.

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

Value: Average.


Review: Rich & Rare Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

It is an odd experience for a Canadian to travel to the United States and find Canadian Whisky in liquor stores which cannot be purchased in Canada. It’s not solely a Canadian experience, as there are some export and duty free bottlings not available elsewhere (like Four Roses, which produces 2 offerings only available in Japan). However, there are quite a few labels I could not find in Canada. I picked up a bottle of Rich & Rare Reserve to taste (at a cheap clip! I don’t think you’d find this in Ontario for 13$…). Rich & Rare Reserve is distilled and aged in Canada, and then shipped to the States for bottling. It’s another Canadian whisky owned by Sazerac.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose:  The rye off the nose in this whisky certainly takes the fruity road, particularly with berry notes – raspberries in particular. There is also maple, a bit of sappy oak, and butterscotch. It lacks a bit of depth which I was looking and hoping for. There’s also a sour rye-corn aroma which I don’t love, but I didn’t notice it the first time I nosed the glass. It seemed quite a different nosing experience the second time – this time the spice of the rye dominated over the fruit, which I found interesting.

Taste: Soft, mellow, and watery corn to start before the rye kicks in and takes command. There are stronger notes of caramel at the end of the taste, and more sweetness alongside the ginger and white pepper which gradually dries out over the palate. A clean, unobtrusive, and mellow whisky which would likely be a good rye for beginners, or those not used to whisky. There is not much I can find in the palate which I don’t particularly like, but it does lack depth and intrigue.

Finish: A pretty strong finish which certainly does develop. Initially spicy with some ginger, and then the rye takes over and remains with a touch of caramel and a bit of raspberry.

Value: Average, certainly if you can get it for less than $20. At more than that, I might go other directions.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Rich grain leads with some oak, white pepper, red apple, maple, musty oak, and marzipan carrying through from nose to palate until the almond finish. Clean, and lightly creamy.

Value: Average, certainly if you can get it for less than $20. At more than that, I might go other directions.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Dry, oaky spice. Juniper, and loads of terrific grain notes with light caramel and clove on the finish. The palate is lightly sweet and bitter showcasing dried fruits and a drying finish full of spices.

Value: Average, certainly if you can get it for less than $20. At more than that, I might go other directions.


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: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Thomas Handy.jpg
ABV
64.3%
Aging
6 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

The 2011 Handy, showing all the glory that can be had in relatively young rye. Though it's less than half the age of the other whiskies in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection - it shows the sharpness and glory of rye. My favorite BTAC. Of course, ABV and age vary year to year - the table above s not indicative of all releases.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2011 (64.3%)

  • Bottling Code: K2271110 119:44

  • Bottling Date: 2011

This is just a gorgeous, rye nose. Mixed dried fruits, clove, dried rose petals, rosehip jam, anise seed, menthol, oak, light corn husks, stewed apricots...I could go on. The dried floral notes, combined with the spice – absolutely gorgeous. The palate starts off sharp before a creamy wave of spice and dried apricot, dried rose petals, rosehip, clove, nutmeg, and roasted swiss chard. The finish is full of spices, corn husks, rosehip, and cinnamon. Really, a wow whisky...and right up my alley.

Discounting Lock, Stock, and Barrel 16, it’s the best rye I’ve had since Masterson’s batch 1....side by side they offer such different things. Better nose, not quite as good on the palate, but cask strength is (a lot) of fun and takes the finish to terrific lengths. Whisky is just terrific business.

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

Value: Very High, if you can get it at the recommended retail price (about $150).


Review: High River Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller N/A (Canada)

Sazerac, who also own both the Royal Canadian and Caribou Crossing line of Canadian whiskies, has now added this, the most budget-friendly of the three, as it continues to expand its Canadian whisky portfolio - with more bottles to come, I believe. There is very little information about this whisky - it is sourced, and from what I know Sazerac sources from three Canadian distilleries for their Canadian whiskies. I've heard that this is a mix of rye, corn, and barley - though I haven't been able to confirm with them.

Interesting the name "High River", as that is where the distillery Highwood is based. The label talks quite a bit about rye, but it is not a very rye forward whisky...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B1635509 477 REF 1A 5C VT 15C

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

The nose is full of the dried orange and pine notes distinctive of Hiram Walker corn whisky. There are some wheaty cereal notes, clove, anise seed, maple and menthol. The palate is quite sweet, with a good kick of vanilla and a mixed bag of grain notes which are not clearly defined (something like a light mixed porridge). There is a bit of tannin and some sweet oak notes as well, along with some charred wood notes. A light finish with light spices, cedar, fresh wood, and fading sugar. Slightly bitter.

Sweet, somewhat simple, and a bit boring...

Value: Average. Not a fantastic whisky, but it’s simple and quite decent - and cheap (~33$).


Review: Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Another Buffalo Trace product on allocation - generally quite hard to find, this is the younger (~6 yrs) version of the esteemed Sazerac 18 Years Old which is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. In Ontario, they show up once or twice a year, but never last more than a week on the shelves.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Oak, dried fruit, and even a bit of menthol come off the nose. There are bananas and notes of cola as well. There are a few off-notes which smell a bit like stale grain to me. The oak is a bit mossy, and overall, though the influence is heavy, it is quite nice. Dried apricot, as I find so often with many straight whiskeys, is also distinctively present. Vanilla, as usual, is present – but it is not a prominent flavour and sits nicely in the background.

Taste: An oaky entrance, with some dried apricot and a caramel and peppery background, with a light star anise note. The spicy feel to it is very nice, though I do think the oak does dominate a bit too much and gives it quite a dry feel throughout. The rye is a bit candied, as it so often is with the caramel influence of new charred wood in straight rye. The peppery backdrop is very nice, though.

Finish: The oak comes through with some dried apricot and light vanilla, and some earthiness- it’s light after the taste but is quite enjoyable. It lasts quite well, and has a pleasant level of spiciness and sweetness for me. There’s also some nice lift with some minty notes, but the mossy and earthy oak holds its own brilliantly once all else has faded away.

This is very enjoyable, and is a solid choice for me when thinking of American rye. It is sharp, candied, and spicy, with a decent kick of oak influence.

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

Value: Average, at $56.


Review: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46.85%
Aging
New Charred Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 15% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Barton (Bardstown, Kentucky)

This whisky is 8 years old (well, was, I suppose, in 2013 before the age statement dropped) – older than the average bourbon, and very much done more in the style of a “modern” bourbon – a bit more of a silky and soft sort of bourbon. The distillery is owned by Sazerac, who also own Buffalo Trace Distillery, and they give quite a nice and different distilery tour which I quite recommend – it’s a bit more industrial than the others if you’re in the area and it’s not even on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The 1792 on the bottle refers to the year that Kentucky became a state. Recently the bottled was changed and, to me, the new bottle looks much more like a cognac bottle than a bourbon bottle. Too bad, really – I quite like the look of the old bottle (as pictured above).


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: K13 207 08:19

  • Botting Date: 2013

Nose: Sweet nose, this one, and a touch sour. Very nutty- peanuts, pralines, hazlenuts, also with dried apricot, dried cherries, sultana raisins, fresh apricot, vanilla, marshmallows, caramel, maple cookies, chocolate, and earthy wood. A bit of a barnyard aroma here and there, as well. Some off-key harshness lifts off the glass too with time which I find quite detracting – but this dissipated once the bottle was open a few weeks. A great nose…the rich, fat grain is so enticing.

Taste: Thick, with chocolate and cherries before a bit of an mint-tinged oak takeover in quite decent fashion. The earthiness of the oak is enticing, as so often with good bourbons. Not hugely spicy, this one – it’s more of a honeyed and elegant bourbon rather than a spice bomb.

Finish: New oak, vanillins, corn influence, and some more of that nuttiness. The finish has decent length, though sometimes a bit simple and light.

Pleasant, easy sipper. It’s very nice –a bit different than the other bourbons produced out of that distillery which are a bit of an older style – a bit rougher and spicier (and I like them quite a bit!)

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

Value: Average, but nearly high, at this price ($50).


Review: Silk Tassel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Here’s another Canadian whisky with histroy. According to Davin De Kergommeax’s fabulous book Canadian Whisky, it was first produced at the McGuinness distillery in Toronto, but in the 1980s production was moved to Corby distillery in Corbyville, near Belleville. When this was closed, moved to Hiram Walker Distillery.  It’s produced by the Sazerac company, produced for the mixing crowd (with a pouring top). The bottles used to have a tassel on them, which is, I assume, where the name came from.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Sharp rye with some light fresh plums, some brown sugar, some light molasses notes giving a bit of a rum-like feel to the whisky. It’s a bit harsh, and untamed…and some bitterness emerges over some time. There’s a light caramel scent as well, and eventually a bit of pine, light vanilla, and bourbon notes come through.

Taste: Sweet brown sugar undertones lead to some fruity rye (more plums), prunes, raisins, and dates. Despite a medium body, it doesn’t have a lot of spiciness to it, and there’s a very light tinge of bitterness which doesn’t detract from the whisky but gives it a bit of an edge – as bitterness can to dark chocolate. It’s quite simple, but does its job pretty well.

Finish: Lightly sweet, without much flavour but some light grainy, fruity, almond, and molasses notes. I find after some time the finish dries out a bit and a touch of spices come out, but the feel of this is not altogether wonderful. There’s nothing very negative about what is present in the finish (except the feel of it, slightly), but it isn’t complex, big, or long.

Value: Not expensive, but not good enough to be above a “low” value. There are better options for the price, or within 1-2$.