Category Archives: Bourbon

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof– Not a Review.

I haven’t posted in a while. A few weeks ago, I got a call from the ABC store: They had drawn my name in their rare-whiskey lottery, the prize for which this time was the opportunity to purchase a bottle of E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof. If ever there was a call saying “get your ass back to blogging,” there it was.

After researching a bit about it, I went to the store to purchase it. Being my lucky day, they also had a bottle of Sazerac I reviewed last. While both are excellent, I felt that the E.H. Taylor needed a more thorough review before I could share it. In fact, I still haven’t had a chance to write it. This is just an announcement: Right now, it is available over at Caskers, and it is absolutely worth the ~$70 price tag.

If you see this for a reasonable price, my recommendation is buy it– It never stays around long.

-Mash

Eagle Rare 10 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

There’s nothing like a nice drink after a long Saturday. My girlfriend and I recently purchased a house, and while she is at the beach I have been assembling new toys like a Lawn Mower, and installing blinds. I also went into work, so it has been a long day. Unwinding with a glass of Eagle Rare really hits the spot.

I can’t possibly write a review of this fine bourbon without acknowledging the giant who made it possible: Elmer T. Lee. Lee began working at the George T. Stagg Distillery in 1949 after serving the Air Force during World War II, and rose through the ranks to become the plant manager in 1969. In 1984, he introduced Blanton’s to the world, the first Single Barrel Bourbon in history. He continued to advise the distillery, which was renamed years later to Buffalo Trace. He passed away last week. If not for his innovations, single barrel bourbons like this might never have become popular as they are today.

Buffalo Trace is a great distillery. Owned by Sazerac, they churn out products including everything from Ancient Age to Blanton’s. They are also the producers of the highly sought after Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve. Eagle Rare is one of their more commonly available offerings.

Tasting Notes
Proof– 90, although not stated on bottle.
Aroma– Alcohol, Oak, and Honey.
Color– Light Amber.
Taste and Finish– One thing to keep in mind with Single Barrel Bourbons is that the taste may change substantially from one bottle to the next. Wefty also has a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 he will be reviewing, and I look forward to see how our bottles and tastes differ.

Neat, there is an Oaky burn and not much else to start. A bit of sour oak on the finish. As I continue to sip, it opens up more with of a honey note, but the burn doesn’t seem to go away. Now, to drop a ball of ice into the glass. Sourness grows, honey fades with the first sip. The burn subsides, but a solid bite remains. After some more ice melts, the sour oak turns to sweet oak, and ultimately leaves a finish of red berries. The fruity finish when the bourbon was fairly diluted caught me by surprise, and was quite pleasant. I find myself wanting to pour myself another glass, but I also intend to write another review tonight.

Verdict

Neat, it has a decent bite that is not overpowered by burn. This is a good whiskey to drink neat. Throwing some ice into it, this bottle gave a very interesting oak progression, from sour oak to sweet oak to sweet oak with a fruit finish. Very enjoyable, very tasty.  For the price point, I wouldn’t feel bad about mixing Eagle Rare with a soda, coke, or gingerale, although another less expensive one may fit the bill better. And at a decently high 90 proof, it should hold up against sodas pretty well.

In terms of strong-mixed drinks,  I thought I would try a a new cocktail. Three blackberries muddled in equal parts Lemonade and Bourbon. This drink brought out the sourness of the oak, while the whiskey really masked the sweetness of the berries and lemonade. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this specific cocktail, I am thoroughly impressed with the potential to use Eagle Rare as a mixer for a strong drink like a Whiskey Sour or Julep.

Overall: Eagle Rare 10 is a solid bourbon worth having in any collection. It would also be interesting to compare several bottles side by side, as the single-barrel approach can produce a fair amount of variation. Things as simple as the positioning of the barrel in the barrel house can affect the final flavor, as minute temperature differences over 10 years can result in a very different result. But overall, I am quite impressed with Eagle Rare 10, and consider it to be a good buy for any bourbon fan.

For a second opinion, I recommend reading Josh Zollweg’s reviw.

Cheers,
-Mash

PS- If you can’t find it locally, it is available from at least one online retailer.

Never drink alone, but remember: Pets only count as company when your partner is out of town!

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Four Wood

A very generous friend gifted me this special bottle from one of my favorite distilleries, Woodford Reserve around Christmas time last year. It comes in a very nice decanter, and is a beautiful bottle that is a part of Woodford’s Master’s Collection: An annual experiment that plays around with one of the 5 flavor sources: grain, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation.


Made in Versailles, Kentucky at their own distillery, bottles of Woodford Reserve come in a few varieties. From their standard bottle, to the Double Oaked variant, to the Master’s Collection. Their mash bill consists of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley, and appears to be the same for all their labels. The variation in style comes from how they treat the bourbon after initial aging. And for Four Wood, that experiment involves a second aging process in special barrels.

The Four Wood gets its name from the four types of wood used: Like all bourbon, the whiskey is initially aged in charred oak barrels. Four Wood proceeds to be aged in a second maturation barrel. I believe that there are three barrel types: Port barrels, Sherry barrels, and Maple barrels, that are then mixed together before bottling. Woodford Reserve carefully adjusted the ratios so that no single flavor dominates the flavor.

The Master’s Collection is always a small production, and as such they charge a premium for it: around $100 for a bottle.

Tasting Notes
Proof– 94.4
Appearance– Dark like Coke Syrup, much darker than Woodford Reserve’s standard label.
Aroma– Warmth, cinnamon, and some maple meat with a bouquet of fruit. A very nice aroma.
Taste– The shit hits the fan when sipping this stuff neat. Four Wood has an intense burn that dehydrates your mouth, although a hint of tannins (possibly from the Port barrel?) nicely finishes the sensation. The second aging barrels seem to overpower any oak, leaving only a hint of sour oak that I consider Woodford Reserve’s trademark flavor. This is not pleasant to drink, although it is not entirely objectionable. Adding an Ice Ball, the burn initially intensifies as a small amount of water is added to the stuff. I find this very interesting. Dark vanilla notes are also present, but both these flavors fade as more of the ice melts. Interestingly, after a fair bit of ice melts, Four Wood reminds me very much of Blanton’s Single Barrel. At this point, it has a smoky start that transitions nicely into a fruitiness that is challenging to pinpoint, followed by a nutty finish. This is the way I would recommend drinking Four Wood: With ice, and allowing time for the ice to melt.
Finish– Neat, nothing but burn. With ice, nuttiness that is fairly pleasant.

Verdict
Neat: 2 Barrel out of 5. While complex and multi toned  this whisky simply has too much bite to be pleasant to drink neat. It’s almost as if the dehydrating elements and the burn are competing to see which of them can make the whiskey more unpleasant. And while I can’t say which of them win, I do think that they accomplish their mission. The burn is also surprising: At only 94.4 proof, I wouldn’t expect it. But the complexity saves it from a lower score.
Rocks: 4 barrels out of 5. This is where the whiskey shines. With enough ice melting, the subtle tones of nut and vanilla begin to show, and the complexity of this bourbon truly begins to shine. The time it takes this whiskey to open up is worth the while, and would make it a great whiskey for sipping with others if you want to slow things down. I like that. I would drink this at a Poker Night.
Weak Mixed Drinks: 2 barrels out of 5. I think that this would stand up extremely well against Cola or Gingerale. But at the price, I’m not willing to try it– And I have to withhold the 5th barrel.
Strong Mixed Drinks: 2 barrels out of 5. This may be good for a Mint Julep or a Traditional Old Fashioned. I can’t get a feel for it in a manhattan, although it may be worth trying with Dry Vermouth instead. Cutting up the power of this bourbon with a lighter aperitif is an experiment I intend to try. The complexity may truly shine here.

Overall: 2.5 barrels out of 5. I love Woodford Reserve, but I think that this experiment that started with their Kentucky Straight Bourbon took a good thing and diminished it. Despite a nice aroma, Four Wood is not pleasant to drink neat, although becomes pleasant when unlocked with some water and chilled by melting ice. It’s strong flavors may stand out strongly against a mixer like gingerale or coke, but at $100 a bottle, I wouldn’t consider trying it. Four Wood may be worth trying in a Mint Julep, as its strong flavors may benefit from the smoothing effect of simple syrup, and the mint may help the drink overall.

The Master’s Collection experiments, however, are absolutely worth keeping an eye on. While this experiment may not have gotten the best reviews, it is in interesting experiment that shows off some unexplored possibilities when it comes to finishing barrels. And previous experiments have turned up very different results. The 2011 release was two half bottles of differently aged ryes, and has generally been very well reviewed. And there is no telling what the 2013 release may be.

I’ll be enjoying this bottle as an experimental bourbon, and on the rocks when I want to drink something slow. And the beautiful decanter will, undoubtedly, stick around in my collection quite some time– Perhaps as a vessel for my own Bourbon experiments.

-Mash

Tennessee Whiskey: It’s Bourbon.

One of my favorite distilleries recently shared this meme by facebook group “Bourbon Country” alleging that Jack Daniels is not a Bourbon. With all due respect, they are mistaken. If you refer to Jack Daniels as a Bourbon, you are sure to get someone to tell you “Jack Daniels is not a Bourbon, it is a Tennessee Whiskey.” What’s the story here?

What is Bourbon?
Bourbon’s definition varies from place to place, but within the United States and many other countries, all of the following must be true for a bottle to call itself Bourbon:

  • Bourbon is made in the USA.
  • Bourbon is made from a grain-mixture that is at least 51% corn.
  • Bourbon is aged in new, freshly charred, never before used oak barrels.
  • Bourbon is distilled to no more than 160 proof, enters the barrel at or below 125 proof, and bottled at at least 80 proof.
What is Straight Bourbon?
In addition to the above requirements:
  • Straight Bourbon is aged at least two years.
  • Straight Bourbon’s age must be stated if it is younger than four years.
  • Straight Bourbon’s bottled age must be the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle.
  • Blended Straight Bourbon may contain younger neutral grain spirits, but must be labeled as Blended.
What is Tennessee Whiskey?
Tennessee Whiskey is an even more specialized product.
  • Tennessee Whiskey must meet all requirements of Straight Bourbon.
  • Most Tennessee Whiskeys undergo a filtering step called the Lincoln County Process.
    • Distilled, unaged whiskey is passed through a thick layer of Charcoal, usually Maple, on it’s way to the barrel for aging.
    • From here, the whiskey is treated the same as Straight Bourbon.
So is Jack Daniels Bourbon?
Yes. Jack Daniels is a Straight Bourbon that has also undergone the Lincoln County Process, and is made in Tennessee. It meets all requirements of being a Bourbon, and therefore can be called a Bourbon. The fact that Jack Daniels chooses to call their product something else, and insists that their product is not Bourbon, is simply marketing. They could put the word “Bourbon” on their label, and would be entirely justified. Which is why I personally choose to refer to it as a Tennessee Bourbon. That having been said, Jack Daniels isn’t that bad, although I imagine other Tennessee Whiskey’s may be better. I know many Bourbons, including Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, and Woodford Reserve definitely are.
-Mash