Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – Review #46

Kentucky Spirit Background

Wild Turkey Kentucky SpiritWild Turkey Kentucky Spirit takes claim of the second modern single barrel Bourbon. Blanton’s is the first, although there were most likely earlier bottles from a single barrel. But for practical purposed within the realm of modern Bourbon as we know it, they’re #1 and #2.

Kentucky Spirit has the same bottling proof of Wild Turkey 101. The different would seem to be barrel selection and age. Wild Turkey 101 is a bottling of barrels blended together with ages of 6, 7 and 8 years old. Kentucky Spirit is a little older at 8-9.5 years old. And that barrel selection should be good as Master Distiller Jimmy Russell picks them out himself.

Wild Turkey line is unique with its robust flavors. Likely attributed to the lower entry proof going into the barrel. The lower proof means it’s less refined coming off the still, which means it carries more flavors from the mash and fermentation. Also lending to flavors is a heavy #4 alligator barrel char.

Details

8-9.5 Years Old. Bottled at 101-proof. Bottled on 6/14/13 from barrel #48 in Warehouse C on rick #66. Mash recipe of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $48

Aroma

Caramel and cinnamon. Some cocoa. A little spearmint. Brown sugar. Oak.

Flavor

Sweetness, nice caramel cinnamon, and vanilla profile. Corn. Brown sugar. Burnt sugars. Graininess. Assertive charred oak  and a touch of astringency. Spicy and bold.

Overall

Distinctly wild turkey. This is a flavor bomb with assertive barrel flavors and lots of sweet caramel and vanilla. The burnt sugars I’m getting are a little harsh, I think. All these flavors hold up just fine to water and I think I like a dash in this one to dial down that heavy char. This is pretty flavorful.

Comparing this to Wild Turkey 101, I think Kentucky Spirit has more a pronounced caramel and vanilla profile. Also I’m getting more brown sugar. 101 seems a little more fruity to me and there might be a hint of acetone that’s absent in Kentucky Spirit in side-by-side. If I had to summarize the two, I’d say Kentucky Spirit is a bit more refined although packs more flavor on some levels. I’m going to give this the same rating as Wild Turkey 101. I like Kentucky Spirit better, but pricing difference is elevating Wild Turkey 101. If you like 101, Kentucky Spirit should make for a nice pour for a special occasion.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0 out of 5.0

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

This is a standard rye Bourbon and you’ve got a number of other good options in this category and price tag. If you want to compare this to a few other bottles, I’d suggest checking out John J Bowman, Angel’s Envy, and Baker’s. Of course you can also check out the much cheaper Wild Turkey 101, which would probably be a good place to start.

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Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Henry McKenna Single Barrel – Review #45

Henry McKenna Single Barrel Background

Henry McKenna Single BarrelHenry McKenna was a Kentucky farmer who began making whiskey in 1855. He brought his recipe with him when he emigrated from Ireland and after his death his sons continued the family distillery. Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 Year Old is a tribute to Henry, but that is all. It’s made today by Heaven Hill as a bottled-in-bond product. In fact, Heaven Hill claims it’s the only “extra-aged” BIB single barrel Bourbon on the market. Bottled-in-bond means legally the Bourbon must come from a single distillery, in the same season, bottled at 100-proof, and aged in a federally supervised warehouse for at least four years.

This bottle here is actually the older design. The Bourbon itself is the same, but last year Heaven Hill updated the look of the packaging to be a little less arts and crafty. This is kind of weird look, but I suppose it might stand out on the shelf.  Either way, the new bottle looks like an improvement, but I won’t hold that against this whiskey.

Details

10 Years Old. Bottled at 100-proof. Mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $30

Aroma

Caramel. Toffee. Fruity. A little buttery and nutty. Smoky oak. Touch of perfume.

Flavor

Sweet and caramel. Cherry syrup. Vanilla, Roasted coffee. maple syrup, brown sugar.  Some hot cinnamon. Barrel char. Oak and astringency towards the finish. Nice flavors.

Overall

Henry McKenna Single Barrel is a nice flavorful Bourbon.  A lot of flavors here towards a rich sweet pour. It has nice barrel character that balances out the sweetness a bit, but still seems pretty sweet and refreshing. For me it’s also on the edge of some fruity fusel alcohol, but still good.

I compared Henry McKenna Single Barrel to Evan Williams Single Barrel, which seem pretty similar and both out of Heaven Hill. I think i prefer the Evan Williams 2003 better overall, but it’s close. Both are single barrel expressions and close to the same age, so I could see a little variation may flip the two. They’re both similarly priced, so I’d say just pick up which ever you can find or maybe one of each and just enjoy them both as they’re nice values. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced daily sipper, at 10 years old, 100 proof, and a single barrel bottle, Henry McKenna is a good bet.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

We already covered Evan Williams Single Barrel. Some similar standard rye Bourbons around this price worth also checking out include Elijah Craig 12, Bowman Brothers, Russell’s Reserve 10, Elmer T Lee, Knob Creek Small Batch, and Woodford Reserve. As you can see there are a lot of options in this category near this price.

Links & Other Reviews

 

Rhetoric 20

Rhetoric 20 Year Bourbon – Review #44

Rhetoric 20 Background

Rhetoric 20 BottleDiageo’s Orphan Barrel is back with its third bottling in a 20-year-old Bourbon called Rhetoric. I previously looked at Barterhouse, which was also a 20 year old Bourbon, and the third was Old Blowhard.

Rhetoric 20 is a straight Kentucky Bourbon pulled from the famous Stizel-Weller warehouses. It was distilled at both the old and new Bernheim distilleries between 1990 and 1993. Barterhouse was distilled at the new Bernheim and also aged at Stizel-Weller. Rhetoric 20 apparently has some older barrels distilled at the old Bernheim, which might be why it’s $10 more than Barterhouse. Also Rhetoric 20 has a real cork while Barterhouse had synthetic, so I guess there’s also that.

Rhetoric will be released in progressive ages. So this year we have a 20-year-old bottle and next year will be a 21-year release. The plan is to have six releases, so that will be interesting to see a 25-year bottle of this in 2019. It’s probably safe to assume that each release will be more expense than the last.

The bottle matches the previous Orphan Barrel designs and here we have a pretty nice looking label. With each future release, the bottle will retain the same design, but the background will get darker in reference to the older age.

Details

20 Years old. Bottled at 45%. Mash bill of 86% corn, 6% rye, and 8% barley. Bottle # 346. Paid $85.

Aroma

Rich toasted oak and sawdust. Deep caramel and rich vanilla. Fruity, sticky sweet smelling with cherries. Spearmint.

Flavor

Maple, smokey. Sweetness. Caramel and vanilla. Rich. Nice woody oak. Cinnamon. Fruity apples and cherries. Coffee. Soft finish that’s mildly minty and that fades into firm drying astringency.

Overall

Rhetoric 20 is a nice little treat. With anything 20 years old, it’s not going to be for everyone, but there’s nice complexity here with sweet caramel and nice a nice smokey maple. That’s followed up by fruity cinnamon, and then some rye presence and finally the oak fills in the gaps. Yeah, it lacks life of a Bourbon half its age, but it’s nice to mix thing up once in a while and this is a pretty nice option.

I poured a second glass of Barterhouse for comparison and I like Rhetoric 20 better. Barterhouse has a little more heat, I think, which gives it some character, but Rhetoric 20 seems a little better put together. I had no real complaints with Barterhouse and gave it a buy a bottle rating. I think Barterhouse was worth picking up just for the experience, at least at list price, and Rhetoric 20 is something I might be more interested in keeping around.

It will be interesting to see how this Rhetoric 20 progresses year to year. I’d be a little concerned at adding a lot more oak to it, but today for $85, this is a nice pour. It certainly goes down easy. If I find another bottle near this price, I’ll probably pick up a spare.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

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Stagg-Jr-Batch-1-Batch-2-Feature

Stagg Jr Batch 1 & Batch 2 – Review #43

Stagg Jr Background

Stagg-Jr-Batch-1-Batch-2George T Stagg bourbon needs no introduction. It’s a part of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and arguably the king of the bunch. Since the first released in 2002 the series has been going strong. So strong, Buffalo Trace geared up to launch a Stagg Jr companion product that last August came to age and hit shelves.

Stagg Jr is touted as a younger version of George T Stagg. Where George T Stagg is aged 15-16 years, the new Stagg Jr is aged 8-9 years, typical of many of the Bourbons reviewed here. Time does wonders to higher proof Bourbon, so the big question is whether all things equal, assuming that’s the case here, how will a younger Stagg be?

Stagg Jr is planned to be released “several” times a year. Just recently the second batch hit the market, which seems on pace for 2 batches in the first year. The first batch came in at a stout 134.4-proof. The second batch is a tamer 128.7-proof. For this review I tasted these side by side cut with water down to 110-proof. For the heck of it, I also poured a similarly cut 110-proof glass of Colonel  EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof, which uses the same Buffalo Trace #1 mash. I don’t know the age of the CEHT-BP, but I assume it’s older.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 134.4 & 128.7-Proof. Buffalo Trace #1 Mash of less than 10% rye. Paid $50 each.

Aroma

Batch 1: Roasted, caramel, cocoa, nail polish remover, brown sugar. Slightly fruity solvents kind of dominate over the rest of the subtle stuff.

Batch 2: Vanilla, caramel, roasted, raisins. Cinnamon. Some oak. Some fruitiness.

Flavor

Batch 1: Ample black pepper, cherry, red hot cinnamon. Brown sugar. Spicy alcohol. Solvents. Hot alcohol. Roasted.  Leather, tobacco. Charred oak. Finish is a little astringent and a bit acrid-bitterness. Burn hangs on.

Batch 2:  Sweet, toffee, caramel. Cherry syrup. Hot cinnamon. Some cocoa. Black pepper. Roasted. Charred oak. Still hot, but not brutal.

Overall

Definitely similar, but the second batch to me is much better. Sweeter and more caramel-toffee. Much more enjoyable in my book. Some people say a bottle changes for the better after it’s been opened, and I’ve been sampling the first batch for three months. I haven’t seen any improvements for the better.

I think Stagg Jr caught a lot of flack because it got hyped it up as an alternative to George T Stagg, and when it disappointed, it kind of bombed. Putting Stagg on the bottle really drove up expectations and the product simply didn’t deliver. I don’t think it’s horrible, but I find it needs a lot of water to ease up the harsh edges. At that point I might as well just grab a bottle of Buffalo Trace.

The second batch is a different story. This is one is much more enjoyable both out of the bottle and cut to the a lower proof. For $50 or so, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable buy, but I could probably come up with a list of other things to do with $50. Specifically I think Stagg Jr is no comparison to the similarly priced Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof.

When comparing these to Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof there too is no comparison. While the Taylor Jr bottle is significantly more expensive, usually $80-$100, I really like. If I had to choose between Stagg Jr and drinking less CEHT-BP, I’d go with a pour of Taylor Jr and drink water the rest of the night. I’ve yet to post my review Colonel  EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof, but spoiler: it’s going to get my top rating. So, that’s curious here because it’s the same recipe, although I assume Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is a bit older and perhaps that’s what makes all the difference. It might be interesting to see if Buffalo Trace can hold Stagg Jr back a couple more years and see what happens. Maybe that’s why there hasn’t been many releases so far? Or perhaps the second batch just gives us an indication Stagg Jr is still searching for its groove.

Recommendation

Batch #1 – Pass – 1.5/5.0 Rating
Batch #2 – Try a Glass – 2.5/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

First off, I’d recommending passing on a first batch bottle if you come across it. If you want to try Stagg Jr, keep looking for the second batch. After that, as a high-proof/barrel proof bourbon in this price range, the mentioned Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof is a home run. Knob Creek Single Barrel is another option, as is Booker’s. Another good option is tracking down a store selection barrel proof Four Roses Single Barrel.

Links & Other Reviews

Wild Turkey 81 Rye Feature

Wild Turkey 81 Rye – Review #42

Wild Turkey 81 Rye Background

Wild Turkey 81 RyeWild Turkey 81 Rye is a recent addition to the Wild Turkey lineup. It was a response to the sudden spike in demand for rye whiskey, which previously basically a boutique product compared to the Bourbon business. When Wild Turkey’s supply of aged rye whiskey began to outstripped demand, they introduced Wild Turkey 81 Rye as what seems a stop-gap. It’s a younger version than Wild Turkey 101 Rye and obviously is a lower proof so they could get more bottles out of a barrel. Wild Turkey says the age of Wild Turkey 81 Rye is 4-5 years old.

Wild Turkey 101 left shelves for about two years as Wild Turkey’s ramped up production came to age. Wild Turkey 101 Rye began rolling out to select states in late 2013/early 2014. Bottles still appear to be limited and there’s no sign that Wild Turkey 81 Rye is going away any time soon.

Details

4-5 years old. Bottled at 81%. Rumored to be around 65% rye. Paid $21

Aroma

Minty, menthol. A little evergreen. Nice subtle, but distinct rye character coming through. Caramel. Charred oak. Touch of vanilla.

Flavor

Light and thin. A little cardboard. Pine flavors. Caramel, a little sweetness. Just a little spice builds in the finish.

Overall

For the price and the proof, this is pretty good stuff. It’s incomparable to Wild Turkey 101 Rye that’s not too much more expensive. If 101 is available, that would seem a no-brainer to me. But anyway, if you focus on what Wild Turkey 81 Rye is, there’s not much to dislike. Certainly it’s on the light side and lacks oomph, but it does have nice flavor and is very drinkable. This would make a nice afternoon session whiskey and there’s no complaining about the price.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

If you can find Wild Turkey 101 Rye, that’s an easy choice in my book. The downside is you have to buy a whole liter at this present time, but it’s hands down the better choice for obvious reasons. From there, other similarly prices light ryes are Sazerac Rye 6 Year, Old Overholt, and Rittenhouse. There are some variations in there, but if I had to stack them up, I’d prefer the sweet Sazerac 6 over this, but Rittenhouse after Wild Turkey 81 Rye. Rittenhouse was dry and a little rough for my tastes. I wouldn’t recommend Old Overholt. Depending on my mood I could see swapping order on Sazerac 6 and Wild Turkey 81 Rye.

Links & Other Reviews

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