Baker’s 7-Year-Old Bourbon- Review #38

Baker’s Background

Baker's Bourbon BottleBaker’s is named after Baker Beam who works at Jim Beam. On the family tree he’s the great grand-nephew of Jim Beam. This Bourbon was his creation and hence carries his name. It seems to use the Beam mash recipe and it says it uses a special “jug yeast.” I’m thinking this may be the standard Beam yeast and the jug is a reference to the fact Jim Beam used to take jug of yeast home with him every night. He did so because he wanted a backup in case something happened to the yeast at the plant. Perhaps it is a special yeast or perhaps it’s just the Beam special yeast. Either way, the flavor profile to me seem similar to the rest of the Beam products.

Baker’s has a 7 year age statement and is bottled at a generous 107-proof. It’s one of four products in Jim Beam’s “Small Batch” lineup which includes Baker’s, Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, and Booker’s.

Details

7 years old. Bottled at 107-proof. Mash bill of 73% corn, 13% rye, and 10% barley. Paid $47

Aroma

Nutty, peanuts. Caramel, Vanilla. Bready. Some Oak.

Flavor

Sweet and caramel. Some alcohol heat. Proof is a little high here, but still enjoyable. Nutty, biscuity, raisins, figs, dark fruit like. Burt sugars. Distinctly Beam

Overall

This is a rich flavorful pour with the distinct Beam profile. There’s a lot to like here with big flavors. Alcohol is  bit high on this, but I prefer it at full strength. A little water will dial down the alcohol, but I think it loses some of the thick richness. It’s got a great mouthfeel that’s worth keeping even if it means smaller sips.

As with Knob Creek, the Beam yeast thing can be polarizing. If it’s not your thing, you’ll probably enjoy something else.

Comparing this to Knob Creek, I think Baker’s is richer and deeper. A little more burt caramel flavors. Baker’s has an extra 7-proof in its favor, although Knob Creek has an extra couple years of age. Those are only two levers in building Bourbon. They’re both similar and if you like one, you’ll like the other. Baker’s cost me $11 more than Knob Creek and that might be a tough sell. While I enjoy both of these Bourbons and I’ve even ordered them at a bar a number of times, they’re not my preferred pour. I’d probably just opt buy Knob Creek and pocket the extra cash, but if you’re into Jim Beam products I think you’ll appreciate Baker’s enough to justify the price.

Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0 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

I would probably suggest starting out at the mentioned Knob Creek. In this price range for a standard Bourbon, some other options to research would be Angel’s Envy, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, and John J Bowman. Another options at this price could be a store bottle of Dickel 9 Year Barrel Selection.

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John J Bowman Single Barrel – Review #37

John J Bowman Background

John J Bowman BottleJohn J Bowman Single Barrel is made at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia. John J Bowman was a 1770’s Kentucky settler and patriarch of the Bowman lineage that started the distillery in northern Virginia. Abraham Smith Bowman is the great, great nephew of John Bowman and opened his distillery in 1933. He was a farmer and what as was typical he would distill excess crops into a more shelf stable and profitable product as whiskey. In 1988 A. Smith Bowman Distillery opened at its current location and taking on this name and legacy. They began distilling in 1991.

What’s interesting about A. Smith Bowman is while they distill, they don’t do their own mash. Sazerac is their parent company, which is also parent for Buffalo Trace. In some corporate synergy, A. Smith Bowman gets distillate from Buffalo Trace and distills it a third time. Then they barrel it and age it in Virginia. Also interesting is the two distilleries are about the same latitude, but Fredericksburg is on the other side of the Appalachia Mountains and closer to the east coast. It’s said they use the Buffalo Trace #2 mash, so it’s interesting to see differences with that extra distillation and aging locations.

A. Smith Bowman Distillery makes three different Bourbons. There’s the Bowman Brothers Small Batch, John J Bowman Single Barrel, and an annual special release Abraham Bowman.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 50%. Buffalo Trace Mash #2 of about 13-15% Rye. Paid $49.

Aroma

Caramel. Some fruitiness of cherry, apple. Vanilla. Leather. Some nice charred oak.

Flavor

Buttery. Cherry syrup. Toffee and vanilla. Moderately rich sweetness with some charred oak. Cocoa. A little drying and mild spice in the finish. Water brings out more sweetness and a caramel, but this is nice right out of the bottle.

Overall

I’m impressed with both my bottles from A. Smith Bowman. They’re doing something right. John J Bowman is a pretty nice pour and I  thought Bowman Brothers was a particularly good deal. For me, John J Bowman is $20 more than Bowman Brothers and that might be a bit of a tough sell. That’s not a knock on John J Bowman, but just that Bowman Brothers might be under priced in my book. As I’m editing this I’m sipping on a glass debating the $20 thing. Yeah, I say it’s worth it.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 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

John J Bowman is a standard bourbon with a moderate rye. In this price range some other standard Bourbons worth checking out include Baker’s, Angel Envy, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, and Dickel 9 Year Barrel Selection. A little higher on the price range worth checking out is Blanton’s. You also can’t lose with the mentioned Bowman Brothers Small Batch.

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Old Overholt Rye – Review #36

Old Overholt Rye Bottle Old Overholt Background

I recently reviewed Rittenhouse Rye, and like that bottle, its name stretches back to Pennsylvania whiskey making. As the story goes during revolutionary times the British blocked shipments of molasses for rum making. Colonists then turned their attention to native grains/cereals like rye. With that, Pennsylvania became a hot bed of whiskey production which began a tradition of rye whiskey making.

Abraham Overholt made rye whiskey on his farm in Westmoreland County, PA. Around 1810 he and his brother took their operation commercial. As farmers, they distilled about 6-8 gallons of whiskey a day and then increased capacity to 200 gallons a day. Eventually Old Overholt became the best selling rye whiskey in the U.S.

After prohibition, the Old Overholt brand transitioned to National Distillers. National Distillers generated a great deal of cash in a patent dispute with Fleishmann’s over yeast of all things. Flushed with cash, National Distillers went on a prohibition buying spree gobbling up failed distilleries and their stocks of whiskey. In total, National Distillers purchased 9 million gallons of forbidden whiskey. After prohibition, National Distillers bottled barrels of rye and sold it as Old Overholt until 1987 when they merged with Jim Beam. When Jim Beam took over the brand, the whiskey transitioned to Beam’s own rye recipe.

Details

No age statement. Bottled at 80-proof. 51% Rye. Paid $22

Aroma

Fruity, sweet, pears and apples. Band-Aid medicinal. Caramel. Bready. Hint of rye, but not much specific characters.

Flavor

Sweet and thin. Medicinal carries through from the nose. Pine flavors. Bready flavors. A little solvent mixed in with the medicinal. Some pepper spice builds in the finish.

Overall

Nothing special here in Old Overholt. The phenolics are off-putting and it’s otherwise thin and uninteresting. It’s cheap, so it has that going for it, but even still there’s better stuff out there for the money. Once you get past the band-aid, it’s pretty easy drinking with a relatively lower alcohol. Not much rye flavor here either, just a little pine and some black pepper. I get some breadyness that probably can be attributed to Beam’s unique yeast.

This one is a pass for me. Once in a while you can find a whiskey that drinks above its price tag, but this one tastes like a lower shelf whiskey.

Recommendation

Pass – 1.0/5.0 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

This is a lower-percentage straight rye and we’ve got some options near this price. Closest is Wild Turkey 81 Rye. That’s not my favorite in this area, but I like it better than Old Overholt. From a few bucks more check out Rittenhouse Rye and Sazerac Rye. Also worth mentioning is Wild Turkey 101 Rye. Technically 101 is a amount more expensive, but it’s current selling in 1-liter bottles, so it works out.

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Sazerac Rye 6 Year Old – Review #35

Sazerac Rye 6 Background

Sazerac Rye 6 Bottle When people think Sazerac usually it’s the cocktail. In fact, the Sazerac stakes the claim of America’s first cocktail. The next reference is likely the whiskey used to make that cocktail, which is usually a rye whiskey. Specifically Sazerac Rye 6 whiskey. That’s all relatively recently history, however. Sazerac Rye 6 only became the official booze for a Sazerac in 2000. Before that it simply called for rye whiskey going back to 1873. Before that, it was a French brandy named… Sazerac.

All this started in 1838 when Antoine Amedie Peychaud was mixing up brandy toddies. If you recognize the name Peychaund, it’s the famous brand of bitters. That Peychaud Bitters would later become a key ingredient in the brandy-based Sazerac starting in 1850.

The Sazerac would become the bread and butter of the Sazerac Coffeehouse (Bar), which was named after that French brandy. Owner Sewell Taylor made the brandy-based Sazerac the house drink and it gained a strong following. Then Thomas H Handy bought the Sazerac Coffeehouse and its brands. Not long after, the cocktail officially transitioned to rye whiskey and marks the beginning of a liquor empire that would eventually become known as the Sazerac Company. Kind of interesting all this American whiskey lore started with a French brandy.

Anyway, now on to the whiskey itself. Sazerac Rye is widely called Sazerac 6 Year Old or simply Baby Saz. There’s no age statement on the bottle, but the website still lists it as 6-years-old so we’ll run with that. This whiskey shares the same name of Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old, which is a part of the Buffalo Trace annual Antique Collection. While they have the same name, they’re actually different recipes. Buffalo Trace has had Sazerac Rye 18 held in stainless steel tanks for years now and Sazerac Rye 6 is a different product.

Details

Six years old. Bottled at 45%. 51% rye, 39% corn, and 10% barley. MSRP – $26.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Fruity. Cinnamon. Clove, caramel. Mint. Some Pine. Apples. Smells pretty wonderful.

Flavor

Light, fruity, and crisp. A good amount of sweetness in this rye with caramel flavor. Rye flavors are there with mint, some spiciness, and evergreen. A little alcohol burn.

Overall

Sazerac Rye 6’s nose I think is more complex than the flavor here, but there’s a lot to like, depending what you’re looking for in a rye. Sazerac Ray is not a rye monster as the rye components seem to be held in check with other flavors. It plays more like a big rye Bourbon. It’s pleasantly sweet and fruity with nice younger rye character, but not too young. Seems well-rounded.

I think Sazerac Rye 6 is a pretty nice pour, but may not be what people are looking for in a rye whiskey these days. They probably want more rye punch of either something younger or made with more rye, or something more complex in an older rye. Sazarac Rye might be a bit of a tweener in this regard. If you’re willing to enjoy it for what it is, however, it’s pretty nice.

The price is right and fits in well with some other “barely legal” ryes in both flavor and price.

Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0 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

In this category I’ll group Sazerac Rye 6 with Wild Turkey 81 Rye, Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, and Old Overholt. All are priced similarly and have similar profiles. Wild Turkey 101 Rye is probably my favorite of this group and Sazerac Rye 6 is my second.

Links and Other Reviews

Wild Turkey 101 Rye – Review #34

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Background

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Bottle Wild Turkey starting making rye about 25 years or so ago and it was a boutique product compared to the Bourbon side of things. A few years back rye saw a big spike in popularity and as a result Wild Turkey 101 Rye fell into short supply. In 2012 Wild Turkey introduced a younger lower proof rye with its Wild Turkey 81 Rye. The problem was simply supply had run short and Wild Turkey needed time to age more barrels. Wild Turkey 101 Rye is about 6-7 years old, but lacks an official age statement. Supply finally started to catch up late 2013 and Wild Turkey introduced a new 1-liter bottle of Wild Turkey 101 Rye.

Wild Turkey has an interesting history as a subsidiary of a New York-based grocery store. Austin Nichols bought bulk whiskey and sold it under its own brand. What’s known today as the Wild Turkey Distillery eventually became a sole source for whiskey and Austin Nichols bought the distillery. The acquisition was during the darker days of Bourbon and it was to ensure a steady supply of whiskey.

One noteworthy bit about Wild Turkey is they’re known to have a lower entry-proof. Meaning the product is a lower proof as it comes off the still and goes into the barrel. That lower entry proof carries more flavor from the mash and gives Wild Turkey products a bit distinct flavor.

Details

No age statement. Bottled at 101-proof. Rumored 65% rye. Paid $35

Aroma

Caramel, Doublemint Gum. A little pine sap. Some graham cracker. Vanilla and cinnamon. Wood char. I’m really liking what’s coming out of this glass.

Flavor

Nice peppery spice with lots of caramel. Nice sweetness for a rye. Some red hot cinnamon and a menthol/mint that lingers after the finish. Nice woody oak character that melds with char. Barrel character is a bit drying. Nice mouthfeel.

Overall

It’s got a little roughness to it similar to the Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. It’s the signature Wild Turkey thing that I really dig. A ton of flavor here and real nice pour. I like to leave the water out of this one and just enjoy it as-is.

It drinks like a big rye Bourbon, which not uncommon I think for the “barely legal” range of straight ryes. If you’re looking for something with a  more distinct rye flavor you could look for some younger bottles and also something in the 90%+ rye. I like big rye Bourbons though and this price is pretty nice, considering you’re buying a handle.

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

Prorate Wild Turkey 101 Rye down for a 750ml bottle and it’s sits on the same price shelf as Rittenhouse, Old Overholt, and  Sazerac Rye 6 Year Old. Those four are similar I think in price and rye percentage for comparison. Wild Turkey 101 Rye is my choice between the four both in flavor and value.  Also worth mentioning the Wild Turkey 81 Rye. For me that will save about $5 when factoring in the volume differences. I think the 101 is $5 better.

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