Review: Yellowstone Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon 2016

Limestone Branch Distillery, based in Lebanon, Kentucky, is one of those craft distillers that is making whiskey (and moonshine) while also marketing sourced spirits, at least for the time being. Yellowstone is the company’s sourced brand, and in addition to some regular bottlings, it produces an annually released bourbon, which differs from year to year. (There’s no information on the sourcing location, but this is a Kentucky bourbon.)

For (late) 2016, Yellowstone LE, as it’s known, is a blend of two rye-recipe bourbons, a 12 year old and a 7 year old. The whiskeys were finished for several months in new, toasted wine barrels. Why? “We used 28 new wine barrels with varying levels of toast – I was interested in how toasting versus charring would contribute to the bourbon,” says Steve Beam, president and distiller of Limestone Branch Distillery.

The 2016 Limited Edition is a pretty little bourbon, reminiscent of any number of rye-heavy bourbons. Soft on the nose despite the 50.5% abv, it offers aromas of light caramel and butterscotch, with a healthy but not overdone dusting of baking spices. The palate is a bit hotter, with a more present woodiness, and a hint of mushroom, green pepper, and pine needles. At center stage is classic vanilla and caramel, some chocolate, and a red berry note that endures well into the finish — maybe a hint of the wine barrel treatment at last.

In the end, this is a perfectly credible and drinkable bourbon, though nothing about it is so remarkable as to make me leap up and throw hundred dollar bills at it. Because, you know, that’s what it costs.

101 proof. 7000 bottles produced.

B+ / $100 / limestonebranch.com

Review: Baileys Irish Cream

We’ve written about so many special editions of Baileys “The Original Irish Cream” in the past, but the original has remained elusive for all these years.

Today we remedy that, with a review of perhaps the most essential of all Irish creams: Baileys.

Baileys is described as “the perfect marriage of fresh, premium Irish dairy cream, the finest spirits, aged Irish whiskey, and a unique chocolate blend.” The devil’s in that second point: There are other spirits in Baileys aside from Irish whiskey, likely grain alcohol designed to give this a bit of a kick (and for less cash than whiskey would cost).

There’s not a hell of a lot of whiskey flavor in Baileys, but it’s there — a vanilla and oak-soaked character that works well as a foil to the light chocolate and caramel notes, all whipped together with the milkiness of the cream.

Hey, at this point Baileys offers few surprises to the experienced drinker. It’s a standby for a reason — it does what it does reliably and consistently. Baileys tastes just fine, but all of those flavors are on the lighter side, gentle and uncomplicated and perhaps a bit staid. The good news is that Baileys doesn’t overdo it with the sugar, so while the finish sticks to the insides of your cheeks for longer than you might like, what’s left behind is cocoa-dusted, with just a kiss of whiskey.

So cheers to that.

34 proof.

B+ / $19 / baileys.com

Review: Cadee Distillery Complete Lineup – Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Rye, Deceptivus, and Cascadia

Based on the Isle of Whidbey, north of Seattle, Cadee (Gaelic for “pure”) is operated by a family of Scottish ex-pats with a passion for distilling. The distillery offers a wide range of spirits, from vodka to gin to a selection of whiskeys — clearly the focus here, considering the pride it takes in its oak barrel program.

We tasted, well, everything that Cadee makes. Thoughts on the complete lineup follow.

All bottles are individually numbered.

Cadee Distillery No. 4 Vodka – Distilled four times (hence the name) from unspecified grain. This is a prototypical modern vodka, a little mushroomy on the nose but balanced out with marshmallow-like sweetness that is particularly present on the creamy, versatile body. Hints of lemon and milk chocolate give the vodka some nuance, but otherwise it’s a straightforward and simply sweet vodka with mixing on its mind. 80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. B+ / $29

Cadee Distillery Gin – Juniper-focused, but botanicals are not disclosed. Reportedly made from an 18th century recipe. This London dry style gin is indeed heavily perfumed with evergreen notes and a touch of forest floor funkiness, but the body offers more interest, with those juniper notes slowly fading to reveal a complex array of flavors that include marzipan, lemongrass, and mandarin oranges. It’s those distinct mandarins that linger on the finish for the long haul, giving this gin a particular uniqueness that merits exploration. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A- / $36

Cadee Distillery Intrigue Gin – This is a distinct and separate gin expression, “full of character and botanicals, with a subtle citrus focus.” The mandarin notes from the standard gin are stronger here, particularly on the nose, which ride along with grapefruit and banana notes, plus some lime. That lime paints the way to the palate, which continues the heavily citrus (not at all “subtle”) theme, with more grapefruit and lemon notes, along with a healthy grind of black pepper and a touch of mint. For fans of fruit-forward vodka, this is a pretty and aromatic gin worth picking up. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A / $36

Cadee Distillery Bourbon Whiskey – Aged in new, charred American oak barrels for a minimum of just eight months, but you could’ve fooled me. This is young whiskey, but it has a depth and maturity that I never see in craft bourbons. While the up-front speaks of buttered popcorn and salted caramel, what follows is a character that would indicate much more seriousness: ample vanilla, chocolate malt, some match-head barrel char, and hints of roasted meats, cloves, and a soothing, rye-like baking spice character on the finish. The up-front, grain-heavy character makes a subtle showing on said finish, alongside some notes of hemp rope and, at the very end, hints of sweet Sauternes wine. Kooky fun. 84 proof. Reviewed: Batch #4. B+ / $43

Cadee Distillery Rye Whiskey – Same aging regimen as the bourbon, but with a rye mash. This one’s not as successful as the bourbon, with much less maturity — which is understandable given that, well, it’s not terribly mature. Sugary cereal plays with some weedy and mushroomy notes on the nose, with a slight undercurrent of lemon peel. On the palate, it’s quite sweet but otherwise similar, with a continued focus on grain and earthier elements. The finish is on the tough side, though a lot of brown sugar sweetness hangs on well after the granary notes fade. 84 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3. C+ / $39

Cadee Distillery Deceptivus – This is essentially Cadee’s bourbon, finished (for an unstated amount of time) in first-fill Port barrels. (Real Port from Portugal, not some weird Washington “Port.”) The nose has that telltale winey fruitiness, all plums, prunes, and raisins, with a smattering of Christmas spices behind it, plus a hint of caramel corn. The palate is sweetish without being overblown, fruity without tasting like jam. It’s hard to go wrong with Port finishing, and here the wine and whiskey notes come together to create a dessert-like spirit that balance one another with notes of brown sugar, rum raisin ice cream, cinnamon sticks, roasted almonds, cocoa nibs, and lingering dark chocolate notes. One to pick up, for sure. 85 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A- / $49

Cadee Distillery Cascadia – The Port-finished version of the standard rye. The whiskey has a lovely, pinkish hue to it. Even the Port can’t tamp down the grain here, which is just as cereal-focused as the unfinished version, a bit leaden with notes of hemp and wet earth, plus overtones of menthol. The palate is more of a success, layering in fruit atop the cereal, here showcasing lighter notes of strawberry and grape jelly, some orange oil, and a slightly sour rhubarb edge. Again, the finish is boldly sweet, though not so overpowering as to make one grimace. 87 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3. B / $50

cadeedistillery.com

Review: Modelo Chelada Tamarindo Picante

Modelo’s latest release is a spin on its long-running canned Chelada, a new flavor that adds tamarind and chipotle peppers to the classic chelada recipe of beer, tomato juice, salt, and lime.

I tried the new product, rimmed with Halo de Santo spicy/citrusy salt blend that Modelo conveniently sent along.

All of the extra flavors in the Chelada have a really light touch here. The primary character is Mexican lager, crisp and lightly malty, with some brightly citrusy flavors driven by the lime. The tamarind is more noticeable than the tomato even (despite the ruddy brown-orange color), and the Chelada isn’t particularly picante unless you sip it with a chunk of rimming seasoning. I highly recommend this approach, as the spice really elevates the beverage into something festive. Straight from the can, it’s fine, but too boring to get excited about.

3.3% abv.

B+ / $3 per 24 oz can / modelousa.com

Review: Chieftain’s Batch #10 – Linkwood 1991, Glenrothes 1997, Glenturret 1990, Bowmore 2002

A new batch of whiskies from indie bottlers Chieftain’s has turned out six new releases. Today we look at four of them. Thoughts follow.

Chieftain’s Linkwood 1991 24 Years Old – When I think of great, beautiful Speyside whisky, this is what it tastes like. Aged 24 years in (ex-bourbon) hogsheads, this whisky is soft and sweet, with notes of brown sugar, light toffee, subdued oak, and almonds on the nose. The malty but soothing body kicks up some spice notes, with strong secondary notes of Christmassy roasted nuts, and a sharp citrus character on the back end. The finish is surprisingly briny, echoing the malty, nutty notes that roll over the tongue on first blush. It’s a relatively simple whisky, but its just-perfect maturity proves to be quite enchanting. 92 proof. Cask #10369. A / $160

Chieftain’s The Glenrothes 1997 19 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish – This PX whisky is a monumental bruiser, and right from the get-go it offers aromas of wood oil, raisins, Port reduction, well-roasted chestnuts, and old, old wood. This is all just a comparatively restrained prelude to the body, which is overwhelming with that PX sherry, which is drying and pungent with notes of dried flowers, jasmine, dried figs, bitter roots, and more of that heady furniture polish character. The finish is lasting but tight, raisiny, and full of funk. Not your father’s Glenrothes, for sure. 106.4 proof. Cask #91822. B / $150

Chieftain’s Glenturret 1990 25 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish – Compare the Speyside Glenrothes to the Highland Glenturret, located considerably further to the south. This is a better balanced expression of a PX finished malt, though it is still loaded to the hilt with that PX character. On the nose, it’s thick with spice and oily nuts, raisins and Port wine — but balanced, lacking the astringency of the Glenrothes bottling. The palate is bold and expressive but, again, finding a better balance among notes of chocolate, toasty oak, toffee, and some brown sugar. That racy finish is heady and lengthy, but settles down into a groovy fireside character that keeps you coming back. Cask #91812. A- / $170

Chieftain’s Bowmore 2002 13 Years Old – Saving the peat for last, this a classic Bowmore aged in bourbon hogsheads. The nose is mild, just hinting at smokiness while keeping its focus more on notes of nuts, roasted grains, dark chocolate, and maple. The palate kicks off the peat character in earnest, with notes of fresh peat, lightly sweet smoke, and a slug of salty iodine, but the finish takes things back to fruit — mainly apples, plus perhaps some white peach notes. This is a rather laid back Bowmore expression that peat freaks may find undercooked — but perhaps is more approachable to the rest of the whisky world. 92 proof. Cask #2096-2097. B+ / $120

ianmacleod.com

Review: Wyoming Whiskey Single Barrel, Outryder, and Double Cask Limited Edition

Since the 2015 launch of their first whiskey, Small Batch Bourbon, Kirby-based Wyoming Whiskey has made a name for itself in the craft distilling world with a steady release of high-quality offerings that manage to showcase creativity and pack in a lot of complex flavor despite their youth (all are around five years old). A Single Barrel release followed quickly behind the Small Batch, and then in late 2016 the distillery shook things up with a bottled-in-bond, straight American whiskey called Outryder. Most recently, in February 2017, Wyoming Whiskey introduced its first wine cask-finished bourbon, Double Cask Limited Edition.

Thoughts follow on all three of these releases.

Wyoming Whiskey Single Barrel Bourbon – Wyoming Whiskey’s (wheated) Single Barrel Bourbon is naturally chosen from the best of the barrels which are excluded from the Small Batch blend and reportedly yield only about 220 bottles each. At only five years old, each Single Barrel will exhibit different qualities, so variation is to be expected among different bottlings. This bottle has a light copper color. The nose is sweet with hints of brown butter, ginger, and cocoa nibs. The palate is rock candy sweet and a little thin, but layers of chocolate, citrus, and cloves appear in due course with black pepper and candied ginger rounding out a generous finish. 88 proof. B+ / $60

Wyoming Whiskey Outryder Straight American Whiskey – A departure from the wheated mash of Small Batch and Single Barrel, this bottle is a blend of two different whiskeys, each with a large winter rye component in the mashbill (one is a whopping 48% rye). It also carries the bottled-in-bond label, something rarely seen in the craft whiskey world, which means, among other things, it is at least 4 years old and bottled at 100 proof. The color on Outryder is pale amber. On the nose, there’s sweet toasted coconut and vanilla bean. The palate showcases a gentle rye spice with layers of maple syrup, nutmeg, and raisins along with a surprising and enjoyable pineapple note. The long finish is where most of the spice emerges along with some subtle orange zest. For their first foray into rye-forward whiskey, this one is a true winner from the folks in Kirby. 100 proof. A- / $60

Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Limited Edition – The latest addition to the Wyoming Whiskey line-up is probably its best yet. For Double Cask Limited Edition, the same five year wheated bourbon in the Small Batch and Single Barrel is given a healthy dose of finishing in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and bottled at 100 proof. The result is a surprisingly rich and flavorful spirit that begins with its beautiful mahogany color (imparted largely from the wine cask). The nose explodes with dried fruit, fig, and candied apricot. The palate is like a rich, sweet breakfast of pancakes covered in dark berries and buttery, vanilla syrup with hints of black raisins and candied orange peel. The finish is long and warming with fading notes of fresh-ground cinnamon. 100 proof. A / $60

wyomingwhiskey.com

Review: The Wines of Game of Thrones, 2017 Releases

Listen close and you can hear the theme song. Yes, we’re still three months away from season seven of GOT, but if you’re jonesing for a taste of Winterfell — well, Dorne seems more wine-friendly — then check out these wines licensed with the Game of Thrones logo and motif. The grapes are sourced from all over Wester… er, California and are made by Bob Cabral at Vintage Wine Estates, which owns B.R. Cohn, Delectus, Cosentino, and a number of other brands.

Thoughts follow. Summer is coming!

2016 Game of Thrones Chardonnay Central Coast – A perfectly acceptable chardonnay, modestly oaked and fruit forward with notes of vanilla-dusted apples, some peach, and a squeeze of lemon. The finish is clean and quite dry, with just a touch of honeycomb. B+ / $20

2014 Game of Thrones Red Wine Paso Robles – A credible blend of predominantly syrah, tempranillo, and petite sirah, with florals and bright berries in equal concentration, a touch of chocolate and, on the finish, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg. This spice detracts from an otherwise perfectly drinkable — if lightly sweet-tasting — red, putting it roughly in par with a decent zinfandel. B / $20

2014 Game of Thrones Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – This ultra-fruity expression of cabernet doesn’t come across like any Napa cab I’ve encountered. It’s loaded with unctuous — and quite sweet — notes of strawberries and over-ripe currants, marshmallows and vanilla syrup. The finish is saccharine at times — and very lengthy. C- / $50

gameofthroneswines.com

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