Tag Archives: Buy Again

Bulleit Bourbon – Review

Bulleit Bourbon Background

Bulleit Bourbon
Bulleit Bourbon

Bulleit Bourbon is a brand of Diageo and was introduced in 1999. It’s widely assumed to be entirely, but certainly at least in part, distilled at Four Roses. Bulleit Bourbon is then aged at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller warehouses. The Bulleit brand includes Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon, and Bulleit Rye. The source of Bulleit Bourbon has changed or will be changing shortly away from Four Roses. This deal goes back to when Seagrams sold off many of its brands, which included both Bulleit and Four Roses and the Four Roses Distillery to Diageo. Diageo later sold Four Roses to current owners Kirin.

Diageo is now building a $115 million distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky and is expected to begin producing in 2016. It’s unclear if there will be a gap between this new production and the end of Four Roses sourcing, and if so, where it will come from. For now, however, we do know that current bottles have distillate from Four Roses.

Bulleit Bourbon doesn’t share the same recipe as any of Four Roses’ products. Four Roses has its 10 recipes and can create a unique product through blending. Bulleit Bourbon uses both of Four Roses’ 20% rye and 35% rye mashbills for a mash recipe of around 28% rye. Bulleit Bourbon doesn’t have an age statement, but is typically aged between 6-8 years.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 90-proof. Mash of about 28-percent rye. Paid $27

Aroma

Floral and sweet. Spicy, cinnamon. Minty. A bunch of caramel. Fruity with some apples. A little leather.

Flavor

A little flat without a lot of depth. The barrel character seems light with a hint of chocolate. Minty. Mint carry through the finish. Nice sweet, caramel, and vanilla flavors. Some astringency and ends on a bit of an acrid flavor.

Overall

Bulleit Bourbon was technically my first bottle of Bourbon. Years ago I went into the liquor store and asked for a quality middle of the road Bourbon to soak some oak cubes when making a Bourbon barrel stout. I remember taking a big swig of it and breathing fire. LOL. Times have changed.

Bulleit Bourbon is a pretty nice Bourbon and at a good price for a nice value. To me it seems a bit flat and some roughness around the edges, but it has a nice rye profile and does present a nice barrel character. Given the sub-$30 price for a good spicy rye Bourbon, it’s very nice option.

Comparatively this is like Four Roses Small Batch. Similar recipe split between Four Roses two high rye mashes, although it’s unknown which yeasts are used. It’s also bottled at the same 90-proof. Largely the difference appears to be perhaps the yeast and barrel storage. Bulleit Bourbon is stored at Stitzel-Weller warehouses in Louisville as noted, while Four Roses has a different style single story warehouses about an 45 minutes further south in Coxs Creek. I really like Four Roses Small Batch, and I would say Bulleit Bourbon is right in there. To use their tagline, I find Four Roses Small batch a bit more mellow with a little more character. Overall I prefer it, but Bulleit is still a nice pour for a few dollars less.

Bourbon nerds will likely object to Diageo and Tom Bulleit’s fishy back story. A lot of Bourbon brand lore is part myth and part truth, so I’m not going to get too worked up over it. At least not so much to shun a perfectly fine value. Still there’s plenty of fine Bourbon out there and people are free to vote with their wallets on both the Bourbon and the people behind the bottle. Personally, I’m not that concerned.

I’d have no problem buying another bottle of Bulleit Bourbon. In fact this is my third, including the first bottle back in the day. I’d happily spend a couple extra bucks for Four Roses Small Batch, however, their prices are going up, so that may change the equation a bit in the future.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0 out of 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

Bulleit Bourbon is a high rye Bourbon. In its price range I’d recommend also checking out Old Grand Dad 100, Redemption Bourbon, Four Roses Small Batch, and Ridgemont Reserve.

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Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof – Review

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof Background

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof
Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is the big brother in the new-ish Taylor Jr line from Buffalo Trace. Current Bourbon releases also include Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch and Colonel EH Taylor Jr Single Barrel. There’s also a Colonel EH Taylor Jr Rye out there.

There have been three releases of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof and I’m looking at the last two.

  • Batch 1 – 134.5-proof (67.25%)
  • Batch 2 – 135.4-proof (67.7%)
  • Batch 3 – 129.0-proof (64.5%)
  • Batch 4 – 127.2-proof (63.6%)

I never got a chance to try the first release, but I’ve had plenty of time with the second and have been getting acquainted with the third. There are some differences between the releases, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

So, the idea is we’ve got a barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace’s low rye #1 mash. This should make Bourbon nerds think about George T Stagg, which is also a barrel-proof Bourbon from that recipe. The big difference is Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is aged likely around 7-8 years while George T Stagg is about double that, typically. We also have Stagg Jr, which promises to be a younger version of the granddaddy GTS, but if you were to ask me, I’d call Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof more of a true “Stagg Jr,” but lets save that comparison for the review.

Details

Bottled at 129.0-proof.  No age statement. Buffalo Trace #1 mash of less than 10% rye. $69.99 (2016 MSRP)

Aroma

Dark fruits, raisin bread, some grapes. Vanilla. Burnt sugars. Charred Oak. Trace of coffee. A little perfume. Add some water: Fruit turns more to pears, apples, cherries. Now getting baking spices of Cinnamon and cloves. Brown sugar. Vanilla seems stronger.

Flavor

Roasted coffee, charred oak, toffee, burnt sugars. Overwhelming at full strength. A little water brings out a bunch of caramel and more sweetness. Finish has wood and some astringency.

Overall

I hate to sound like a hipster and claim the older version of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is better, but I do like the second release more than the third. I enjoy both of these releases, especially with a splash of water, but the second release more so. I think the difference is enough to affect my rating, but only in the sense of it’s worth buying, but not worth stocking the bunker.

As far as George T Stagg, there is no comparison, in my opinion, but if you dig Stagg, Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof arguably could be the next best thing. It lacks the complexity and robustness of Stagg, but to me it’s much more enjoyable than Stagg Jr. Retail pricing is only about $10 less than Stagg, which is kind of funny, but the big difference is you actually have a relatively decent chance of finding Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof sitting on a shelf.

On the flip site, another way of looking at Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof could basically be a barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace, which also is #1 Buffalo Trace mash. I’m not sure I’d agree with that, although the resembles is there when adding enough water. Even if the years in barrels are close, I think Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is aged better than Buffalo Trace, thus worthy a premium.

I enjoy barrel proof Bourbons and this is a good one to have on hand. A little water I think really makes Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof sing.  If you can find some of the second release, I’d say grab that one, but the third release is just fine. If the third release matched up for me like the second, I’d be probably gushing more in this review. I’ll be curious to see what next year brings.

I’ve seen pricing get up to $100+, which is getting to be a questionable value, in my opinion. If you can find it for a little closer to retail, I think it’s a good buy. Compare that to other Barrel Proof offerings from Heaven Hill, Marker’s Mark, and Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace itself, Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof retail is about ball park, I think.

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

I’m going to stack this up against other barrel/high-proof Bourbon near in price. Four Roses Private Barrel is a great deal, I think, and worth considering for a few dollars less. Also, the new Marker’s Mark Cask Strength is about the same price retail for equal volumes. Booker’s is another option for less, sometimes a lot less, depending on your local pricing. Then we have Stagg Jr, which I’m not a huge fan, but does fit in well price-wise and comparable in flavor. Lastly there’s Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, of which I’m a fan.

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Maker’s Mark Cask Strength – Review

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Background

Marker's Mark Cask Strength
Marker’s Mark Cask Strength

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is a full strength bottling of the classic Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is uncut and non-chill filtered Bourbon that basically turns up the volume on the standard Maker’s Mark.

For decades Maker’s Mark basically only offered its iconic wax dipped bottle filled with Bill Samuels Sr’s family wheated Bourbon recipe. In 2010 his Bill Jr was thinking about his legacy, but they had a problem. They didn’t have capacity and perhaps too time to launch a new product. Maker’s 46 was the result of some creative thinking to utilize existing barrels but finish them with toasted oak staves. Now a few years later there’s a booming demand among Bourbon nerds for barrel strength bottling. Heaven Hill last year launched a barrel proof version of its Elijah Craig, which I’m a big fan. Seems a great idea for Maker’s Mark to do the same.
Maker’s Mark is bottled at 90-proof and the Maker’s Mark Cask Strength version here is a relatively low proof. Maker’s Mark is thought to have a lower barrel entry proof, and given it’s aged around 6-7 years, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength lower proof would seem to confirm that. This bottle is is batch 14-02, or the second batch. The initial batch was initially only available for retail at the Maker’s Mark gift shop, but distribution is widening. Batch 14-01 was bottled at 56.6%.

Details

Bottled at 113.3-proof / 56.7%. No age statement. Wheated Bourbon. Paid $35 (375ml)

Aroma

Old coffee grounds, lots of butterscotch, Werther’s originals. Charcoal. Floral with fruity berries. Cinnamon.

Flavor

Surprisingly a little thin. Butterscotch, creamy vanilla. Cinnamon. Maple. Sawdust. Charcoal. Burnt sugars. Rich Dessert like. Some astringency and roasted corn in the finish. A little hot.

Overall

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength reminds me of breakfast. It’s a rich, sweet experience and I think I’m keying on a few things to bring up cinnamon french toast w/ strawberries. I enjoy this with just a little water. The proof isn’t extreme to require water, I think, but at least this batch just gets better knocked down slightly. This is a little disappointing because the proof is just 20% or so higher than the standard bottle, but the price is over 100% more. Adding water feels a little counterproductive.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is distinctively Maker’s Mark, but at the same time pretty unique. I’m going to make the assumption this is the same age as regular Maker’s Mark, and if so, it might benefit from a bit more age. It’s a little rough, but has plenty of barrel character. Could stand to round out some edges, I think. With that said, this is a pretty interesting pour. A light splash of water improves the glass and helps with those rough edges I think. Brings out more of caramel and butterscotch. Good stuff.

I like regular Marker’s Mark, although it can be a little plain jane  at times. Cask Strength fixes that nicely by giving rich, sweet, charred flavors of Maker’s Mark, but then turns up the volume for more of fruity, caramel, and butterscotch.

The 375ml bottle on Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is a bit high, but the $60 or so 750ml is more reasonable for a something special than the standard these days.

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

I’ll compare this to other barrel-proof/high proof offerings around this price. Some good bottles to also consider include Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof, Booker’s, Noah’s Mill, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, and the already mentioned Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Those are all near the price, although Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is unique in the group as the only barrel strength wheated Bourbon.

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Old Grand-Dad 114 – Review

Old Grand-Dad 114 Background

Old Grand-Dad 114
Old Grand-Dad 114

Old Grand-Dad 114 is part of a larger Old Grand-Dad brand that was created in 1840’s by Raymond Haden. Old Grand-Dad was a reference to his grandfather Basil Hayden Sr. Basil was a distiller himself before when he moved with the family from Maryland to Kentucky in the 1780’s. Raymond Haden started a distillery on the family farm in 1790’s and the distillery was eventually sold in 1899. The distillery was closed for good during prohibition and the brand changed hands again to National Distillers Group who then sold it in 1987 to Fortune Brands, which became Beam.

The Haydens were said to  favored higher rye Bourbons and it’s thought Beam’s current high rye recipe used in Old Grand-Dad 114 is similar to what was made back in the day. Old Grand-Dad 114 is considered a barrel-proof Bourbon and is bottled at 114-proof.

In addition to the Old Grand-Dad brand, Beam has the Basil Hayden brand as a part of its Small Batch line. The Small Batch line also includes Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Booker’s.

Details

No age statement. 114-Proof. High rye mash thought to be around 27% rye. Paid $23

Aroma

Woody, light cloves. Ample caramel. Minty. Yeasty and biscuity. Orange zest.

Flavor

Sweet and caramel. That Beam nuttiness. Minty with some rye spiciness and touch of fresh cut grass. Woody and the finish is dry with medium astringency. Burnt flavors. Light alcohol burn.

Overall

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a little surprisingly light from what I’d expect at this proof. The finish is a little overly drying and there’s a little burnt-bitterness going on. Still a nice pour, although the story here is all in the value. I’m not sure I can think of another Bourbon that delivers at this price point. Closest might be Wild Turkey 101, which itself isn’t perfect, but easily to accept at its price tag.

I don’t want to oversell Old Grand-Dad 114 because this isn’t what I’ll be drinking when I hit the Powerball. It is, however, a pretty good Bourbon that becomes a great value when factoring in price. The proof alone pack a punch, but is mild for an easy sipper and the price also makes it a pocket-friendly and loud mixer. The Beam footprint is evident and I usually caution that the Beam yeast profile is not for everyone. It’s not for me every day, but some days it suits me fine.

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a bottle to get excited about. It’s forgotten as a mostly overlooked brand that, well, your grandpa might drink and not showcased in a trendy cocktail or whiskey bar. Old Grand-Dad 114 is a lower shelf dweller that you’ll probably have to lean over the counter to find.

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a nice quality Bourbon at a great price that hasn’t (yet) gotten swept up in the Bourbon craze. Now is your chance to drink it before it becomes cool.

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

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a high rye Bourbon, but also a high/barrel proof. If you’re looking to research similar bottles in this price range, I’d suggest checking out Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Old Grand-Dad Bottled in Bond/100, Redemption Bourbon, Bulleit Bourbon, and Four Roses Small Batch.

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Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon – Review

Booker’s Background

Booker's Bourbon
Booker’s Bourbon

Booker’s has a special place in my heart as not only one of my first upper shelf Bourbons, but also my first barrel proof Bourbon. I was enjoying Scotch and decided to try some Bourbons and this was one of them. I bought my first Booker’s at the airport in Las Vegas. I was standing waiting for my bags and noticed there was a liquor store right in the airport. Not a duty-free store, but an actual liquor store. This is ingenious! Vegas hotel bars can be hit and miss for decent whisk(e)y, but always expensive. So taking a bottle back to the room from the airport was a neat idea.

Booker’s launched in 1992 by and named after Jim Beam’s grandson and Beam master distiller Booker Noe. Booker’s originally was bottled up by Noe as gifts to friends and family and then was rolled out as a commercial release. Booker’s was noteworthy being “straight from the barrel” as unfiltered and barrel proof Bourbon. Booker’s was way ahead of its time as today unfiltered and barrel proof Bourbons are quite popular among enthusiasts. Booker’s is a part of Beam’s small batch Bourbon collection that includes Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, and Baker’s.

Booker’s isn’t particularly aged as far as premium Bourbons go at about 6-8 years old. So, one should expect a lively pour in addition to that unadulterated uncut goodness.

Details

7 Years, Aged 3 Months Old. Batch C06-B-15, 63.55%. Mash bill of 73% corn, 13% rye, and 10% barley. MSRP – $59.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Nutty, peanuts. Lots of caramel. Popcorn. Rich. Cedar wood. Distinctly Beam.

Flavor

Burnt popcorn. Toffee. Nutty. Biscuity. Roasted flavors. Potent. Dark fruits like raisin and currents. Sticky sweet caramel. Jolly Rancher. Hot alcohols. A little woody tannins in the finish

Overall

Booker’s is beefy both in proof and flavor. A little water dials things down a bit and take the edge off the alcohol. Dominant flavors seem to be corn and burnt sugars. Plus that nuttiness I get from the Beam yeast.

Booker’s can be hit and miss with me. Sometimes I really enjoy it and sometimes the corn and Beam yeast flavors don’t fit my mood. It weird and changes day to day for me. I think Beam Bourbon in general can be a little polarizing, but Booker’s maybe a little more so. It’s an iconic Bourbon, however, so certainly worth a try.

Beam has gotten a little more savvy with batches of Booker’s and in 2013 they stared putting better date codes on bottles. Before it was a typical cryptic industrial code and now it’s simply year and batch number. This bottle I’m reviewing here is from 2012, so before they rolled out the new codes. The more consumer friendly code I think encourages people to collect the bottles, especially with the nifty round table batches that were/are choses by a group of Bourbon nerds. Last couple years I’ve been picking up a bottle just for the heck of it.

Booker’s is priced I think reasonable enough and has been stable over the years. For a big, uncut, unfiltered barrel proof release it’s a good value. I think it’s a must buy for every Bourbon drinker at least once. From there you can decide if you’re a fan of the flavor profile.

Recommendation

Buy Again- 4.0 out of 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

As described Booker’s is a big barrel-proof Bourbon, so we’ll look at similar types around its price. If you can find it, every batch I’ve had of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has been great. Another strong recommendation would be a private bottling of a Four Roses barrel. You can also check out Noah’s Mill, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is also a high proof Bourbon, and Stagg Jr could also be something to look into in this price range.

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