Tag Archives: Low Rye Bourbon

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.

Links & Other Reviews

George T Stagg 2014 – Review

George T Stagg Background

George T Stagg 2014
George T Stagg

George T Stagg is of course the flagship release in the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It’s pretty much right up there with the Pappy Van Winkle line in sought after bottles.

George T Stagg for 2014 comes to us from a long slumber in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouses C, H, I, K, L, P, and Q. So, a wide variety of barrels, although still very constrained number of bottles. The good news, however, is starting with this year’s release there should be more bottles to go around as Buffalo Trace ramped up production of George T Stagg starting in 1997. Of course, demand is disproportionately higher, so it’s likely still a net negative. This batch was distilled in the spring of 1998, which makes it officially 16 years old, but at least 17 summers old.

Details

16 Years Old. 69.05%. Buffalo Trace #1 Mash of less than 10% rye. 

Aroma

Dark fruits of raisin and figs. Old wood, wood polish. A little musty. Dark caramel. Deep, dark, and old. A little water brings out more lighter fruits and spices.

Flavor

Lots of sweetness and alcohol heat up front. Fruity. Thick syrupy. Resiny wood and tannins make for a nice thick mouthfeel. Char lingers in the finish. With a little water I get a bunch more caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon spice up front that the heat may have been hiding along with chocolate and coffee. Still has some heat.

Overall

So, I have no idea why I’m posting this review. Odds are if you’re interested in George T Stagg, you either will buy it on sight or can’t find it. What I may say here probably won’t persuade you and certainly won’t change your chances. But hey, I managed to get a bottle, so lets have some fun.

This is my first go around with George T Stagg. I never got a bottle before, so I don’t have much frame of reference to previous releases. I do know some old Bourbon and barrel proof, so we’ll go from there. George T Stagg is a flavor bomb. It’s big, old, and packs a punch. After a respectable pour uncut from the bottle it probably doesn’t much matter what you drink afterwords. Adding some water brings out a lot more nuanced flavors pulled from at least 16 years in the barrel and dials down the heat.

The downside on George T Stagg is it is an old Bourbon, which may not be everyone’s thing. It’s heavy on barrel character and has some dullness compared to more lively younger Bourbons. Personally I prefer Bourbons in the more conventional 8-11 year, depending how they’re aged. Still, a nice old Bourbon is quite enjoyable as a change of pace and special occasions. It also has some fire with its high proof, but a sensible person can solve that with a splash of water. It’s not the most delicate and nuanced pour out there, but it’s a treat that doesn’t come around often.

I don’t know if George T Stagg is the best thing ever, but it’s very nice, very interesting, and a fun pour.  Considering how rare this is, given the opportunity, my hoarder instincts would push me to buy as much as I could at a relatively reasonable price. If this was plentiful, however, I think I would be content with this bottle and just replace it when it was eventually gone. I don’t see it as a frequent pour, nor something to stock up just in case the world ends. That’s based on price and characteristics of age. I do love barrel proof Bourbons, however, so I’m down with that bold power.

So if you can find George T Stagg anywhere near list price you must buy a bottle. I only ask you actually drink it. In fact, drink it with friends. If you can’t find George T Stagg, there’s a lot of great stuff out there right now on shelves.

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.)

Links & Other Reviews

 

Dickel 9 Year Old Hand Selected Barrel – Review #49

Background

Dickel Hand Selected Barrel 9 BottleGeorge Dickel 9 Year Hand Selected Barrel is one of two special bottlings from George Dickel. The selection line includes a 9 and 14 year bottled at 103 and 106-proof. The idea is this whiskey is sold to stores willing to purchase an entire barrel. So, it would seem they’re sort of rare, although if you do find a host store you’ll likely find plenty of bottles. This of course makes this a single barrel product and each store’s selection will vary slightly.

The Dickel 9 Hand Selected Barrels are filtered in the Lincoln County Process style with charcoal. Dickel uses 13-foot vats filled with charcol. Prior to filling, Dickel chills the whiskey so it’s also chill filtered. The Lincoln County Process is shared by the other major Tennesee producer Jack Daniel’s. The goal is to give the whiskey a “smoothness” and tends to also lend a distinct flavor. Another benefit is it should also shorten the aging time as some of the volatile compounds will be stripped away that normally take time to dissipate. As a result of this process this is not Bourbon, but Tennessee whiskey.

Details

9 Years Old. Bottled at 103-proof. Thought to be  84% corn, 8% rye, and 8%. Purchase price $45.

Aroma

Cherry, solvent-like. Smoky maple. Barrel char. Sweet, sweet. Mustard. Spices

Flavor

Syrupy. Tart. Sweet. Kind of cloying. Some heat. I like to add some water. Smoked maple keeps coming to me. Barrel char is prominent. Fruity.

Overall

Not really my thing. This is different, but not the good kind of different, at least for me. Technically it seems a fine whiskey. A little water dials down the heat and overall more enjoyable. I’m not just digging the flavors all that much. It seems like it was finished in a barrel of something I don’t really care for. It’s just not my thing.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – Rating 2.0/5.0

(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 low rye Bourbon without too many piers. For low rye around this price a good bet are the Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch and Single Barrel. A higher rye recipe that is similar is John J Bowman.

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.)

Links & Other Reviews

Stagg Jr Batch 1 & Batch 2 – Review

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