Category Archives: Bourbon

Review: Jefferson’s Bourbon and Jefferson’s Reserve

jefferson's bourbonToday we’re filling a glaring hole in our coverage. While we reviewed one special edition of Jefferson’s Bourbon (which is no longer available, actually) four years ago, we’ve been silent on the line’s other expressions.

Today we start correcting that, with reviews of Jefferson’s entry-level Bourbon and Jefferson’s Reserve, the two most commonly available expressions from Jefferson’s. While Jefferson’s is traditionally thought of as a wheated line, that’s not always the case. These expressions don’t reveal their mashbills, but neither are reportedly wheated at all. (The mash is said to be 30% rye.) If you want to find wheat in your Jefferson’s, you’ll likely need to look toward the older and rarer expressions… which come from different distillery.

Thoughts follow.

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Review: Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon

Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece Sherry Cask FinishedJim Beam’s been on a tear lately. First came the two members of the new Signature Craft Bourbon series, now there’s Distiller’s Masterpiece, an ultra-premium Bourbon that truly earns its name.

Available exclusively at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Ky., the whiskey is “extra aged” (but released with no age statement) “in the optimal rack-house position, determined by Master Distiller, Fred Noe.” It is then finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks before bottling at 100 proof.

This is a lovely, and surprisingly light, whiskey. The sherry character is immediately notable, a brisk citrus character on the nose that’s backed up by moderate wood notes and a small amount of grain character. Pushing into the body it’s loaded with that sherry character, and is rich with complexity. What’s here: Orange marmalade, vanilla, cinnamon and baking spices, toasted wood, and touches of popcorn on the finish. Harmonious and delicious, the finish stays with you but never turns bitter. Even at 100 proof it is smooth as silk, easy to sip on, and gone — sadly gone — far too soon.

A / $200 /

Review: Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Bourbon

Hillrock DistilleryIt’s surprising that more aged spirits aren’t made in the solera style. For the uninitiated, solera aging involves moving spirits from younger barrels to older barrels, bit by bit, until the liquor in the oldest barrel is bottled — the oldest of the old blended with a bit of spirit from a wide variety of ages. Solera is commonly used in rum as a way to add a high level of complexity to the spirit.

Here, Hillrock Estate, based in New York, uses solera barrels to age its “field to glass” whiskey, taking estate-grown Bourbon and marrying it with mature “seed” Bourbon, then putting it through a series of casks, including a finishing run in 20-year-old oloroso sherry casks. The current age of Hillrock is six years old, with a mashbill that includes 37% rye.

You needn’t delve too far into Hillrock Bourbon to see that this is a spirit of truly impressive pedigree. The nose hits you fast and powerfully: Burnt caramel, dark brown sugar, vanilla, mint, and a modestly woody back end. The body offers immense complexity: Beautiful fruit and layered spices, luscious creme brulee, marshmallow, and an almost raisiny sweet finish. The balance of all of this is nearly perfect, coming together as an altogether brash experiment in whiskeymaking that works far better than you would ever expect.

92.6 proof.


Review: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Years Old & Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy Bourbon 2013

jim beam signature craft 12 years oldRob Theakston recently had the opportunity to be front and center for the opening of Jim Beam’s Global Innovation Center this sprint, which culminated in the launch of Jim Beam’s first Signature Craft Bourbon. Rob previewed Signature Craft 12 Year Old, and now its formal arrival on the market is nigh. Launching for sale in August, Signature Craft will be a regular part of (and in fact the senior member of) the Jim Beam lineup.

Now production bottles are making their way to reviewers, along with the line’s first special edition….

Basically I think that Rob’s thoughts on Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Years Old are spot on. Classic Bourbon structure, it’s got vanilla to spare and a good slug of wood — but not too much — on the nose. The body is perfectly integrated, featuring chocolate and cinnamon beneath the vanilla/woody core. And there’s real austerity here, a wine-like character that you just don’t encounter in younger whiskeys and which is a product of picking really great barrels that have been mellowing for over a decade. The finish is more sweet than spicy, but it’s long and soothing. 86 proof. I agree with Rob’s rating: A / $40

jim beam signature spanish brandyBut wait, there’s more! Beam’s plan is to take Signature Craft and use it as the basis for a series of annually-released special editions. The first will launch in August alongside Signature Craft: Jim Beam Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy 2013. This is the Signature Craft 12 Year Old that’s finished not in the traditional way of mellowing in Spanish brandy barrels but actually by pouring some Spanish brandy into the whiskey. That’s unusual, but does it pan out? Yeah, well enough, but it’s a bit of a distraction from the charms of the straight Signature Craft. The brandy adds more sweetness, along with heavy notes of raisins and dates, sending this whiskey’s flavor profile in a whole new direction. It’s still tasty, but more than a little disarming. I’ll keep sipping on it, but the original’s got it handily beat. 86 proof. B+ / $40  [BUY THEM NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

elijah craig barrel proofElijah Craig is a Bourbon brand on the rise, and its latest release is another knockout, this time bottled at cask strength.

A whopping 12 years old (the age statement is in the text on the back label of the bottle), Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is an amazing whiskey that should (and will) be sought after by those who like their Bourbons big, old, and hot. (George T. Stagg fans take note.)

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Review: Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon

Four Roses Single Barrel 2013This year’s Single Barrel release from Four Roses trots out the OBSK (high-rye) recipe at 13 big years of age.

Slightly older than the usual Single Barrel bottlings (typically 11 or 12 years old), this release is a monster whiskey. If you’ve been waiting for something incredibly bold from Four Roses, wait no longer.

Four Roses 2013 Single Barrel is a bruiser, punchy with cinnamon, big wood notes (particularly heavy on the nose), and a long, sweet, applesauce finish. Bold and spicy on the finish, this whiskey doesn’t let up. Moments after the sweetness starts to fade, a big, Bing cherry note jumps out at you, leaving this whiskey, woody up front, with a distinctly fruity finish. Unique and lots of fun, it’s altogether another winner in a long string of outstanding spirits from Four Roses.

Sample bottles were bottled at a fiery 120 proof — water was a huge help in coaxing out the Bourbon’s most interesting notes. Actual bottle proof will be considerably lower: 100.6 to 114.4 proof, depending on the barrel. 4000 bottles will be released this April.

A / $80 /

Review: Don Quixote Blue Corn Bourbon Whiskey

don quixote Blue Corn BourbonI am Don Quixote, a booze of La Mancha!

Chip Tate at Texas’s Balcones Distilling isn’t the only guy on the cob that’s using exotic blue corn to make Bourbon. Said to be especially difficult to work with due to its high oil content, blue corn makes for unique and memorable whiskey.

Made in New Mexico, Don Quixote is made from 75% local organic blue corn, 23% wheat, and 2% barley. The grains are naturally malted and uncooked before mashing. Made in a unique, moonshine-era “thumper” still, Don Quixote goes into new American oak barrels for four years before bottling.

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Review: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon

Russell's Reserve Small Batch Single BarrelThis is one review we’ve been itching to get up for you for a long time, and finally we’ve got our mitts on this latest from Wild Turkey master distiller (and all around good guy) Jimmy Russell: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon.

The name has had many in this biz scratching their heads: Wouldn’t a single barrel release, by definition, also be a small batch? More intriguingly, this release is the first in the Russell’s Reserve series bottled without an age statement. The original Russell’s Reserve carries a 10 Year Old age statement and a $34 price tag. At $50 a bottle, is the Single Barrel older, or is it just a selection of the best barrels of the 10 Year? Who knows? Next time I see Jimmy, though, I’m going to pry it out of him. (Also of note: Bottles are not individually numbered, so there’s no way of tracking what barrel you’re getting… if that’s important to you.)

Another major difference we should get out of the way up front is the alcohol content: 110 proof vs. 90 proof for Russell’s 10 Year. It’s also incredibly dark in the glass, one of the darker Bourbons on the market today. Pouring a glass releases tons of wood character into the room. I thought I was in store for a barrel bomb when I tucked into it, but that’s not the case. The nose straight from the glass once things settle down offers some wood but also coal, cinnamon/baking spice, and just a hint of vanilla.

On the body, it’s a bit hot but easily manageable without water, then sweet. There’s more of a burnt sugar/dark caramel than the typical vanilla profile of younger Bourbons, with a distinct charcoal note (courtesy of the dense alligator char on Russell’s barrels) that leads to an unusual touch of licorice on the finish. Somewhat minty, but more of a dried mint than fresh. Inviting and restrained, this is sipping Bourbon that welcomes conversation, a dense and chewy whiskey with a clearly impressive pedigree. Way to go, Jimmy!


Preview: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Years Old

BeamSignatureCraftThis past February a cadre of young, good-looking spirit scribes were assembled at Beam’s brand new Global Innovation Center, a $30 million compound with an aesthetic somewhere between a high-tech office and the Hall of Justice. Many new products were premiered for our consideration and tasting. However, the diamond in the rough which caught our eye was the new Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Years Old. I was extremely fortunate enough to receive a preliminary sample; bottles will be shipped to market this coming August.

Similar to many of the Beam extensions (Beam Black, Devil’s Cut), the 12 Year Signature Craft is reminiscent of the flagship white label and boasts many of the qualities which make Beam so popular and drinkable. At first it is heavy on traditional bourbon vanilla, with hints of honey and a bit of chocolate cutting through almost immediately. While lighter on spice and heat than Devil’s Cut, the taste is still quite warm, on the sweet side, and every bit as smooth as you’d expect from a 12 year old American whiskey. On the back end, spice lingers for a bit before an oaky finish wraps things up quite nicely.

This will be the first installment of the series, which we were told by master distiller and all-around great guy Fred Noe will include various finishes over the coming years (though specifically what kinds were held close to the vest by Noe and Beam executives).

Beam has always prided itself on the company’s innovative spirit and the proof is in its activity over the past few years: the small batch collection, Devil’s Cut, and Jacob’s Ghost being but a few examples. The 12 Year is a nice addition to the family, continuing Beam’s legacy of creative variations the flagship brand.


Review: Michter’s US-1 Original Sour Mash Whiskey

michters_sour_mashMichter’s is the It Company of the American whiskey world right now, its from-the-ashes story bringing many fans forward to hear about its charms. Michter’s is a brand that dates waaaay back to 1753 but which went bankrupt in 1989. In 1990 the company was rescued and relaunched, and only in the last five years or so has it really become a hit once again.

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, Michter’s US-1 Original Sour Mash was the top-selling product of this Bardstown, Kentucky-based distillery. But this whiskey inexplicably wasn’t revived after the ’90 reboot. Now it’s back after a 23 year hiatus off the market. (Michter’s isn’t exactly making it themselves right now, but that hasn’t stopped people from gobbling it up the way they do for Bulleit. The company is producing again… but that spirit won’t be bottled any time soon.)

There’s a lot of confusion over what “sour mash” means. For starters, it doesn’t mean the taste is sour. It just means that some of the fermented mash is held over from one batch of whiskey to start the fermentation on the next batch, the same way that sourdough bread is made. Jack Daniel’s famously puts “sour mash” on its label, and in reality virtually all Bourbon made today is sour mash. It’s most costly and less effective to make mash from scratch every time out — this is known as “sweet mash” — although this is experimented with at various distilleries, too (particularly when unusual yeasts are being used).

Michter’s doesn’t offer a lot of specifics about the Sour Mash. It is distilled from a proprietary grain mash (the company will only say “the mashbill has a fair amount of rye grain in addition to a fair amount of corn and some barleymalt”) and is aged in new, charred oak — but it is not a Bourbon. (My hunch is that there is not enough corn in the mashbill.) It is also filtered before bottling.

This is a really lovely, very fruity whiskey. The nose is all apples, with a touch of caramel behind it. Supple and silky, that fruitiness continues on into the body, with an apple pie character that is far too easy to drink, and doesn’t taste at all like it’s been bottled at a solid 86 proof. Not too sweet and lightly wooded, the graininess of the spirit is all but gone — a touch of corn on the mid-palate and a bit of popcorn on the finish are all that remind you that you’re drinking a whiskey instead of chowing down on dessert.

86 proof. Reviewed: Batch no. 13A1A.


Review: Burnside Double Barrel Bourbon

burnside_double_barrel_bourbonThis brand new whiskey hails from Eastside Distilling in Portland, Oregon, and the two barrels in question are a traditional new oak barrel, followed by a second turn for 60 days in a new heavy-char barrel made from Oregon oak. Essentially, its Eastside’s 4 year old Burnside Bourbon (mashbill: 75% corn, 10% rye, 15% malted barley) with a burlier finish applied.

Delightful nose. There’s cherry and gingerbread here, a perfect amount of fruity sweetness to lead you in for a sip. And my, what fun is in store once you tuck in. Again you get cherry and gingerbread spices, with a kind of toffee spin to it. It’s high-proof and heady, and a cinnamon kick develops the more you sip and savor it. The body is spot on and the finish is long, clean, and satisfying.

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Review: Peach Street Distillers Colorado Straight Bourbon Whiskey

peach street colorado straight bourbonPeach Street Distillers, in Palisade, Colorado, is one our rising microdistillery stars, named Distiller of the Year in 2012 by the American Distilling Institute.

This Bourbon — you’ll have to look at the fine print to see the distillery’s name at all — is one of Peach Street’s flagships, a very small batch whiskey — and Colorado’s first “legal” Bourbon — made from Colorado corn and aged “over 2 years.”

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Review: Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Bourbon Round Eight

Another quarter, another installment of the Buffalo Trace “Single Oak Project” experiment. This month we look at the eighth round of these unique, single-barrel Bourbons as we help analyze what recipes and formulas make for the very best Bourbon.

Previous rounds can be found here:

Round One (including all the basics of the approach to this series)
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four
Round Five
Round Six
Round Seven

This round considers the effect of recipe (rye vs. wheat, which so far has been tested in every round), wood grain (tight/average/course), and tree cut (top or bottom of tree). All other variables — warehouse (wood), entry proof (105), char level (#4), and stave seasoning (12 months) — remained the same.

Overall the round was fairly average. Lots of very drinkable whiskeys here, though one pair — 155 and 156 — tasted distinctly off, making me wonder if there was a problem with the tree used to make these two barrels (155 was the top, 156 the bottom). Tasting notes for almost all of the six pairs of whiskeys in this collection were fairly similar, leading me to believe there’s not a lot to be concerned about whether a barrel is crafted from the top of the tree or the bottom. Of course, once all 192 whiskeys are reviewed (two years from now), we’ll have a fuller picture of the variables.

Buffalo Trace says that barrels 97 and 106 continue their reign at the top of the charts right now. If you spot one of the newer barrels on the market, here’s what we have to say about them…

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #27 – Cherries on the nose, some citrus. Sweet on the palate, with similar fruit. A fine, fruity Bourbon without a lot of nuance, but very easy drinking. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #28 – More wood character, and more dessert notes on the palate. That said, balance comes along quite nicely as it opens up in the glass, with a silky, long finish. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #59 – Not a whole lot of flavor left in this, though the wood character dominates what’s left in the bottle. Drying finish without much love in it. This is an off barrel. C (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 18 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #60 – Very woody on the nose, but the body brings up cinnamon and baking spices. It’s still a little hot and unbalanced but the “frontier style” whiskey is fun to drink. Lots of vanilla on the finish. A contender. A- (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 18 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #91 – Not much of a nose on this, but the body features tons of vanilla. Beyond that, not a ton of character, but those in search of a “smooth” Bourbon will enjoy this. B (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #92 – Very woody nose, with a fresh-cut lumber character. On the palate, a bit racy, with touches of licorice and a bit of tannic burn. Lots going on in the lumberyard department. B (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #123 – Overwhelming wood on the nose, with touches of sweetness. The body’s not entirely balanced, tending tannic as it finishes. Some vanilla sweetness comes along late in the game, but too late. B- (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #124 – Hugely fruity, apples heavy here, with touches of cinnamon. Apple pie? It’s a little too sweet, but I’d see it as a real go-to as a blending Bourbon. B+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #155 – Medicinal, astringent on the nose. And yet, watery and just generally off in a couple of ways. This barrel’s not a great one, though it does settle down after some time in the glass. C- (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 9 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #156 – Heavy wood on the nose. Better than #155 but with more than a few similarities. Again, it settles down over time but the finish remains on the rough side. C+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 9 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #187 – Again that hospital character comes on strong, backed by ample wood character. On the body: Woody, lightly tannic. Not my favorite. C+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 10 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #188 – Woody and burly with a nicely sweet finish. Lots of spice — red pepper and cinnamon, some cloves. Good balance in the end. B+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 10 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

$46 each (375ml bottle) /

Review: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Hot Box Toasted Barrel and #7 Heavy Char Bourbon

buffalo trace experimental collection Hot Box Barrel Toast & Heavy Char #7Buffalo Trace’s latest experimental whiskeys are here, and this time out the focus is on barrel treatments, specifically how different heat treatments can impact the resulting spirit. In BT’s own words:

Both of these experiments study the effects of extreme heat on oak barrels and the flavor of the bourbon inside.

The Hot Box Toasted Barrel Bourbon involved placing the barrel staves into a “Hot Box” at 133 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the staves were steamed before being assembled into a barrel. The goal was to drive the flavors deep into the wood.  Next the barrels were filled with Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash #2 and left to age for 16 years and 8 months.

The #7 Heavy Char Barrel Bourbon Whiskey experiment used barrels which were charred for 3.5 minutes, as opposed to the normal 55 second char used by Buffalo Trace typically.  The barrels were then filled with Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash #2 and left to age for 15 years and 9 months.

Both are 90 proof. Thoughts follow. Continue reading

Will Consumers Shun Maker’s Mark at 84 Proof?

maker's mark whisky bourbonThe story of the year in the bourbon biz is (and will continue to be) Maker’s Mark abrupt decision this week to lower the amount of alcohol in its flagship whiskey.

To hear whiskey nuts talk about it, the end of days are upon us. Calls for a boycott — driven by the obvious greed of Maker’s owner Beam Inc., right? — are common. Declarations that Maker’s Mark will no longer be consumed are also rampant.

Maker’s Mark, for the next few weeks anyway, is bottled a 90 proof, or 45% alcohol. This has been a point of pride for the company for years, which has celebrated the little extra kick that gives you over the now-standard 80 proof whiskey.

By dropping down to 84 proof — that’s 6.7% less alcohol than before — Maker’s will be able to stretch its whiskey surprisingly far. Maker’s produced 1.3 million cases of whiskey last year. With the reduction of proof it will be able to add another 90,000 or so cases to its annual shipments. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but figure a wholesale price of $15 to Beam and you’re looking at an annual revenue addition of $16 million to the company. That’s substantial.

So what happens now? Are you going to revolt? If Maker’s is your standby drink, are you suddenly going to start drinking Evan Williams or Old Crow?

Probably not.

First, I believe the Samuels clan when they say its professional tasters can’t tell the difference between Maker’s at 90 proof and Maker’s at 84 proof. I haven’t had the new Bourbon yet, but I look forward to doing the Pepsi challenge myself. I imagine telling them apart will be difficult at best. Most MM faithful will probably have that skeptical first sip, find it palatable, and promptly forget the whole thing.

Second, this is not the first time proof reductions have happened in the world of booze. They’ve been commonplace for years — remember that in the early 1900s, Bottled in Bond whiskey, mandated to be sold at a full 100 proof, was the sign of a quality product. Proof levels started coming down post-Prohibition during wartime years, and the gin industry has been slowly lowering proof levels for decades.

The most notable proof-dropper, however, is Jack Daniel’s. JD dropped from 90 proof to 86 proof in 1987, then to 80 proof in 2004. There was an outcry. There were petitions. There were assurances that JD would vanish from the market as drinkers flocked to competitors.

Today, Jack Daniel’s is — by far — the best-selling whiskey in the world.

Will you begrudge Beam that $16 million for watered-down Maker’s Mark? Probably. But look at it this way: It will give you something to complain about with the bartender who pours it for you.

Review: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon

beer barrel bourbonMichigan’s New Holland Brewing Company puts my thoughts about its Beer Barrel Bourbon right on the label: Beer finished in Bourbon casks: Sure. Bourbon finished in beer casks: Sounds a little weird.

Beer Barrel Bourbon (no mashbill provided) is first aged in new oak for “several” years at a relatively low 110-115 proof. It’s then finished for 90 days in barrels that were used for the company’s Dragon’s Milk stout — which, in turn, was itself aged in a former Bourbon barrel. The cycle is endless!

The provenance of barrel from whiskey to beer to whiskey may be a little tricky to full grasp, but the results speak more clearly, and for themselves.

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Review: Hooker’s House Bourbon and Rye

hooker's house bourbonColor me a bit of a skeptic. Hooker’s House label declares these whiskeys as “Sonoma Style,” as in the California wine country. Where they do not make whiskey. Right? Heck, HelloCello (aka Prohibition Spirits) — best known for its artisanal lemoncello (and other flavors) — makes this whiskey. What on earth do these guys know about Bourbon? How good could it possibly be?

Plenty. And pretty good, it turns out.

Named after a Civil War veteran, Joseph Hooker, who lived in Sonoma, these whiskeys are not actually distilled in California (the company cites only “Bourbon-belt” production; I’m presuming they are born at LDI like pretty much everything else on the market). But Hooker’s House Bourbon and Rye, like many of my favorite craft whiskeys, are decidedly non-traditional spirits: Both are finished in (different) wine barrels that have been retired from local wineries.

That, I guess, it was “Sonoma Style” is all about. And you can count me a full-on convert.

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Review: Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye and Bourbon Whiskey

Finger Lakes Distilling operates out of, you guessed it, the Finger Lakes region of New York, well known as an up-and-coming wine region but also a hotbed of craft distilleries, too. Finger Lakes makes two young whiskeys which we recently put to the taste test.  Both are 91 proof.

McKenzie Bourbon WhiskeyMcKenzie Bourbon Whiskey – Double-pot distilled from a mashbill of 70% local, heirloom corn (the rest is reportedly 20% rye, 10% malted barley). Aged in 10-gallon, new charred barrels (for unspecified time; reportedly 18 months) and finished in casks that held local Chardonnay. First impressions: There’s lots of wood here, with a hearty corn character to back it up. The grain notes are quite straightforward, and the bigger body — driven by the Chardonnay finish, perhaps — is a help considering the relative lack of sweetness. There’s some glimmers of excitement here, with some interesting incense and raisin notes, but the hefty sawdust character on the finish is a bit too close to the lumberyard for my taste. Batch 09/2012. B- / $56 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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Review: Yahara Bay V Bourbon Whiskey

V bourbonHailing from Madison, Wisconsin, this craft whiskey is a three-year-old Bourbon that is matured in small batches and small barrels. The mashbill (and other details) are not revealed by Yahara Bay Distillers, but the results speak for themselves.

The whiskey is surprisingly dark, and the nose is heavy with wood, but otherwise typical of Bourbon. On the palate, it’s quite sweet, with ample vanilla, plus a tannic, woodsy undercarriage. Beyond that, you’ll find a few secondary characteristics: Cinnamon, apple, and some exotic berry character that’s both unusual for Bourbon and hard to place.

While it’s very youthful, and the wood is a bit heavy at times — a by-product of the small barrel aging, I’m guessing  — but it’s surprising how much it grows on you. Not sure, by the way, if the name is supposed to be a letter V or a Roman numeral five.

90 proof.


Review: Bulleit 10 Bourbon 10 Years Old

Bulleit Bourbon 10 years old Bulleit 10One of the biggest success stories in recent years in the Bourbon world has been Bulleit, a brand that came from nowhere and has since become ubiquitous on back bars throughout the country. Bulleit is affordable, good, and easy to drink straight or as a mixer. It doesn’t hurt that Tom Bulleit is one of the nicest guys in the business, and his daughter Hollis is one of the most flamboyant.

After extending the line with a fine, if uninspired, rye whiskey, Bulleit is back with a third expression, Bulleit 10. Put simply, it’s a 10 year old version of the standard Bulleit mashbill (heavy on the rye), set aside for a few extra years to see what would happen. (“Orange label” Bulleit has no age statement, but it is bottled at six years old.)

That’s a lot more time in barrel, so how does it all pan out? Well, we tasted it.

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