Pappy Van Winkle Gets Older, Releases 25 Year Old Expression

Almost three years ago to the day, we were reporting on a Van Winkle 28 year old blend lurking in the cellars of Sazerac. Sadly, this expression was never to see a full release, leaving us no choice but to remain content with thousands of articles about the 23 and 20 year old varieties and nationwide frenzy of lotteries and raffles in an effort to obtain the precious gold.

Fast forward to yesterday, when the announcement broke regarding a 25 year old Pappy coming out of the woodwork. From the press release:

Each decanter is packaged in a handmade wooden box crafted in North Carolina by James Broyhill II of Heritage Handcrafted. The lid is constructed using the oak staves from the 11 barrels that held this bourbon. The outside of the box bears a metal plaque with the Old Rip Van Winkle logo and states “asleep 25 years in the wood.”

This batch came from 11 barrels, resulting in 710 bottles overall. Buffalo Trace has put a suggested retail pricing of $1,800 per 750ml bottle, a well-intentioned recommendation which will no doubt be adhered to by non profit-minded shopkeepers lucky enough to get their anti-capitalist hands on one. It’s looking like the new Pappy has a shipping date of April, so start camping out at your local store now before it’s too late!

Review: High West Bourye (2017)

The latest batch of High West’s Bourye blend of bourbon and rye whiskeys comes with a new label to boot. Now the jackalope is much larger and in full focus, better to connote the “limited sighting” that Bourye always represents.

High West normally tells you more about the individual whiskeys in each bottling, but this year it plays things a little closer to the vest (namely the ages of each individual whiskey in the blend). Here’s what we know about the 2017 release:

• A blend of straight Bourbon and Rye whiskeys aged from 10 to 14 years
• Straight Rye Whiskey: 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP & 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt from Barton Distillery
• Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt from MGP

And here’s what it tastes like.

This is a sweeter expression of Bourye (particular vs. last year’s release), which makes it dangerously easy to sip on. The nose is heavily aromatic with gingerbread, baking spices, marzipan, and candied nuts, giving it a real Christmas cake character that makes one wish it had come out two months ago. No matter, we can drink it today just as well.

On the palate, notes of apricot and orange give way to brown sugar, chocolate, molasses, and more of that spicy gingerbread character. Out of all of that, it’s lingering cloves on the finish and some smoldering burnt sugar notes, giving it just a hint of savoriness. All in all, say what you want about sourced whiskey — this just goes to show that High West knows how to find true honey barrels and blend them together with sustained and impressive skill.

92 proof. Reviewed: Batch 17A17.

A / $80 / highwest.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Stolen Whiskey 11 Years Old

Stolen, best known for its smoked rum line, expands into whiskey with this first offering, an 11 year old bourbon sourced from MGP and given a unique finish. After Stolen gets ahold of the whiskey it is rebarreled in a cask with “double smoked barrel staves” which are made by “turning the staves at key points during a toast over an oak fire.”

So, what’s that do to a whiskey?

The nose of Stolen Whiskey is bourbon-sweet but, as one would expect, slightly smoky — exhibiting a barbecue-like smokiness with vanilla-soaked overtones of cherry wood, some eucalyptus, and hints of cardamom. The smoke lingers the longest on the nose, though — and it grows in power as it collects in the glass.

On the palate, a rush of sweet vanilla and caramel reminds you you’re drinking bourbon, but it’s washed away by notes of bacon and smoldering mesquite fire, smoky but sweet, and heavily meaty. The finish is drying and exceptionally lasting, increasingly dusty and growing rather harsh as it lingers on the tongue, that initial burst of sweetness long gone.

A little barrel char in a whiskey can work wonders for it, balancing out the more sugary notes and adding nuance, but here the effect is amplified to an extreme, taken too far and throwing the whiskey a bit out of whack. The more I drink it, the more all I taste are the remnants of a desert scrub brush fire. And I have to think that was probably not the intention.

92 proof.

B- / $40 / thisisstolen.com

Review: Spirits of Long Road Distillers – Vodka, Gin, Aquavit, Wendy Peppercorn, Cherry, and Wheat Whisky

Long Road Distillers, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has an exhaustive spirits catalog (now spanning 10 products), almost all of which is made from locally-sourced red winter wheat. Want to see how versatile a single grain can be? Here’s a look at five different spirits that Long Road makes from it (plus a cherry brandy made from local fruit).

Long Road Distillers Vodka – Quite pungent on the nose, with notes of mushroom, bean curd, and varnish. On the palate, there’s a vanilla cream and marshmallow sweetness but these can’t overpower the funky, shroominess of the experience — ultimately blurring the line between vodka and white whiskey. 80 proof. C- / $35

Long Road Distillers Gin – Six botanicals are used in the making of this gin, but none save juniper are revealed. And juniper is the primary aromatic and flavor element here, and it actually works well with that earthy, mushroomy base that is revealed in the vodka. Light citrus, both orange and lemon, show up on the palate later in the game, adding a much-needed layer of brightness and adding some acidity. The finish is on the earthy side, but works well enough with what’s come before to merit a cautious recommendation. 90 proof. B / $35

Long Road Distillers Aquavit – Long Road doesn’t disclose its aquavit botanicals, but the nose offers blatant caraway notes, giving it a rye bread character from start to finish. Long Road keeps it simple throughout — there’s no overload of herbs and spices to distract you, just a touch of mint on the finish and some coconut husk character — but if caraway’s not your bag, well, you’ll want to explore other spirits. 90 proof. B / $35

Long Road Distillers Wendy Peppercorn – This is an exotic name for an overproof vodka that’s spiked with pink peppercorns, pepper being a classic Scandinavian garnish. The nose is very fragrant, loaded with fresh pepper aromas along with a gentle fruit character that tempers the spice with sweetness. The palate is initially racy, but the pepper quickly settles down to reveal notes of fresh pine needles, cherry fruit, and a touch of antiseptic astringency. Approachable even though it’s over 50% abv, and fun to drink. Try it ice cold, of course. 101 proof. A- / $35

Long Road Distillers Cherry – This is Long Road’s cherry brandy, a limited release distilled from Michigan cherries. They are sweet and lush on the nose — Maraschino style cherries with a burst of sugar — but the palate takes that cherry and filters it through light notes of savory spices and a touch of roasted grains. The palate is less sweet than the amazingly expressive nose would indicate but it’s gentle enough to sip on and works well as a cocktail ingredient. 80 proof. B / $35 (375ml)

Long Road Distillers Wheat Whisky – Distill that red winter wheat and age it in a #3 charred oak barrel for 6 months and you’ve got Long Road’s wheat whisky. Nothing all that surprising here. This is a typically youthful craft spirit that offers a nose of heavy barrel char, toasty grains, and some butterscotch, all whipped into a slightly scattered experience. The body is loaded with that lumberyard character, then it quickly fades into notes of spent grain, mushroom funk, and more barrel char — though a solid vanilla character, layered with gingerbread, manages to come through clearly on the finish. 93 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. B / $40

longroaddistillers.com

Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A117 (January 2017)

When Rob referred to Elijah Craig’s cult following in 2015, he barely scratched the surface. Elijah Craig’s Barrel Proof releases, all limited-edition expressions of 12 year old, cask strength bourbon, have become collectible phenomena, snapped up on release and resold for well over asking price.

Heaven Hill is doubling down on Elijah Craig and revamping Barrel Proof beginning in 2017. While previous releases have been numbered with a simple and incremental numeric edition code, the company is doubling down on transparency by switching to a more detailed batch number.

Specifically:

To help catalog the various offerings of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, all releases will now have a unique batch number identified on the label — beginning with our most recent. The first letter indicates which of that year’s releases the bottle was a part of starting with “A,” while the second digit is a number that determines the month of the year the bottle was released. The third and fourth digits indicate the year.

So here’s a look at the first release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, under the new labeling system. Released in January, it’s denoted as Batch A117.

This is rather low proof for Elijah Craig, but there’s ample life here and plenty to love. The deep copper-colored bourbon offers a lively nose of caramel corn, vanilla syrup, and a bit of barrel char. The palate is approachable without water, revealing some clear sweet tea notes, backed up by a bit of cola, orange peel, and faint chocolate notes. The finish is spicy and racy, but not overwhelming, leaving behind a light bitterness alongside lingering notes of cloves and oak. Altogether it’s a straightforward bourbon, but well-aged, balanced, and engaging through and through.

127 proof.

A- / $90 / heavenhill.com

Review: Blanton’s Gold Edition and Blanton’s Straight From the Barrel Bourbon

If you’re a bourbon drinker like me, you’ve gotten used to Buffalo Trace never making enough of the whiskeys you love like their namesake brand or the absurdly rare Pappy Van Winkle and Antique Collection offerings that tease us each fall. Blanton’s Single Barrel, another quality Buffalo Trace product, is also increasingly harder to find these days.

You may not have even known that there are higher proof versions of this bourbon that are distributed only in international markets. That’s not entirely Buffalo Trace’s fault because Age International (former owner of Buffalo Trace Distillery) still owns the Blanton’s brand. Buffalo Trace just does all the work distilling the delicious juice, aging it exclusively in Warehouse H, and bottling it in the iconic dimpled bottle.

Here’s a look at two of those expressions.

Blanton’s Gold Edition – This bourbon is unexpectedly gentle on the nose with aromas of cinnamon and ripe peach. The palate is wonderfully rich and honeyed with layers of vanilla and toffee. The heat builds gradually; it’s almost nonexistent at first and then cascades into a long and slightly drying finish with hints of black tea. For only 5% higher alcohol, the results are surprising. This is far better than Blanton’s Original in almost every way. This bottling was dumped July 16, 2016 from Barrel #1265, Rick #6. 103 proof. A / $65

Blanton’s Straight From the Barrel – On the nose, you know right away this is a barrel strength bourbon. Out from under the alcohol emerge brown sugar and sweet orange marmalade notes. The palate is bold and chewy. It’s full of butterscotch and hints of oak, more of which are coaxed from the glass with a little water. The finish is drying but complemented by subtle flavors of black pepper and dried apricot. This one also edges Blanton’s Original and probably even competes with some of the higher proof Antique Collection offerings. Still, the heat never really lets up, suffocating a few flavors and spoiling some of the complexity. This bottling was dumped January 10, 2014 from Barrel #194, Rick #51. 130.9 proof. A- / $85

blantonsbourbon.com

Review: Boondocks American Whiskey and Cask Strength Whiskey

 

Boondocks is the brainchild of Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dave Scheurich, a veteran of the business who’s launching his own little project. It’s rather unique, so follow closely.

Boondocks American Whiskey is made from a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley, but it’s not bourbon. Distilled to a higher proof than bourbon allows, it doesn’t qualify for the legal term. Technically it is light whiskey (I believe, as details are scarce), aged for 11 years in refilled American oak barrels (another bourbon no-no). It’s available in two versions, a 95 proof bottling and a 127 proof cask strength whiskey. Additional, limited edition expressions will be coming soon.

We tasted both of the launch products. Thoughts follow.

Boondocks American Whiskey – As is common with light whiskeys, Boondocks is quite sweet, heavy on the honey and influenced by notes of caramel corn, candied almonds, and — particularly on the nose — a molasses/treacle character. The body is quite light and lively, drinking with just a hint of cinnamon as indication that it’s a bit overproof. Give it some time in glass and some notes of peaches in syrup emerge. The finish is clean and a bit short, but overall quite innocuous. 95 proof. B / $40

Boondocks Cask Strength American Whiskey – At higher proof, the nose features more wood and leather, and would be more mistakable for a bourbon. The honey and nutty notes are stronger, as is a clearer element of cinnamon and (again, particularly on the nose) tobacco leaf. The palate sees more of that molasses, a slightly tannic grip in the form of cloves and a bit of petrol, with less sweetness overall, particularly on the slightly curt finish. 127 proof. B / $58

boondockswhiskey.com

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